Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faith is Daily

I just completed six months of cleaning in two days. I washed the basement floor and steps--even the utility sink. I dusted the blinds and pictures in the living room and took swipes at the spiders loafing in their hammocky webs. Once I got going, I didn’t sit down for fear I’d never get up again. At one point, as I slid a yardstick under the basement couch and watched the un-popped popcorn kernels roll out, I got to thinking that my cleaning marathon is the way that many people, myself included, sometimes live their faith. We drive north for a weekend retreat in a pristine setting, Bible in tow, and spend every waking moment focused on hearing God. We read Psalms next to a crackling fire, or hike the trails with another strong Christian and talk deeply about our Christian life.

Or it’s Christmas and we get all caught up in the Christmas spirit, planning our personal Advent devotions complete with candle-lighting, and going out of our way to inconvenience ourselves for others. Then, as the New Year wanes and the “Renewing Your Faith” retreat is a distant memory, all those good intentions of keeping a personal devotion time lose traction and six weeks go by without our ever picking up our Bible. The on-going argument we’ve had with our spouse, children or in-laws is the same as it was before we left on our retreat and that one woman in church bugs us more than ever. Our boss is unbearable, our car still has 197,000 miles on it with a permanently lit “check engine” light, and we’re back to wasting time on the Internet.

Just as six months worth of cleaning in two days isn’t going to keep the house clean indefinitely, a weekend retreat or 25 days of Yuletide cheer in and of themselves won’t fuel our Christian walk for more than a few days. Just as the spiders will be back at work weaving dusty chandeliers in distant corners and crumbs of cheese and chips will collect under the table, the issues of life will quickly close in on us, testing us every day in our faith.

Oswald Chambers, who has much to say on the drudgery of daily life, said, “After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there.”

Faith, like cleaning, is a daily thing.

My friend and I were lamenting the other day that even though we buy Windex and Lysol, our windows and bathrooms are still dirty. As if buying the products precludes our having to actually use them!

It’s just like the Bible. Having one in the house doesn’t make us mature in our faith, nor does merely attending a church service once a week. Chambers said that it requires “the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint…It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes.”

Yet many folks don’t want faith to be daily or to put in the time required to make it so. That’s why we have church upon church ramping up the “experiential” worship service. They want pinnacles of passion and exotic worldly crises to intervene in all the time. They don’t want to go home and work on the marriage, take out the garbage, and spend yet another Monday night at the kitchen table with a child in tears over math homework.

Oswald Chambers said, “It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God—that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.”

I have struggled with slovenliness most of my life. It was only after becoming a Christian that God showed me that maintaining a clean home, when I did it for Him, was a Holy Act and High Calling. Although I can’t say that I enjoy cleaning (although once I stop procrastinating and get to it it’s actually kind of fun and always very gratifying), I can say with absolute confidence that it is pleasing to God and I find joy in that.

To quote Chambers one more time, he said, “I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty’s sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ."

That, to me, is a daily reminder of how drudgery can be turned into a privilege.

If our faith is to be real, it must be lived in reality. What is reality? It’s right where we’re at, at this and any given moment.

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3: 12-14

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Jude 20

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