This post is adapted from Callings for Life: God’s Plan, Your Purpose written by Jeffrey Leininger.
Extraordinary in the Ordinary
God disregards some of the world’s greatest, most dramatic achievements while at the same time He gives great and holy significance to the smallest, most mundane, and ordinary tasks. The world and, unfortunately, at times the Church extol the dramatic often at the expense of the ordinary. There can be a less-than-subtle idolatry in this: my talents, my accomplishments, my service, my congregation, my success. But when we locate our callings first in the commonplace, there’s seldom much to boast about. Four important applications stem from understanding that vocation is best discerned in the ordinary rather than the dramatic: rejoicing and relief; repentance and readiness.
A sense of wonder and joy fills us when we recognize God’s activity in some of the most common ways. God through me! I might not lead a life extolled by the world as notable and accomplished, yet I can rejoice that the God of all living things extends His life-giving and life-preserving providential activity through me. My unpretentious, unremarkable, even unacknowledged tasks, roles, and relationships remain indeed God-callings when done in response to His love, in faith toward Him, and in service to my fellow creatures. No activity of the Christian done on earth lacks significance and sacred worth when God is active in, through, and behind it. Christians rejoice in this knowledge and find peace and contentment in their daily God-breathed activities.
Discovering our callings in the ordinary rather than the dramatic also brings a sense of relief. Tremendous personal pressure arises with our heightened expectations of personal achievement. What if I never do anything great? What if I missed my one great calling? What if I was supposed to be doing something earth-shattering, and I’m stuck in the morass of normalcy? Have I failed my parents, my family, or even God? Am I a bad Christian or simply not talented or driven enough to be of any great use for God? Discerning God at work through you, amid the faces, places, and spaces of ordinary life, means nothing further needs to be accomplished but humble faithfulness with the small stuff. God sees, recognizes, and blesses our hands, our feet, our mouths, our minds, our spirits, and our hearts serving in simple ways as His instruments in a fallen and falling world.
Called to Repent
Seeing God at work through the ordinary also convicts us. We are called to repentance for seeking first the praise of people or for looking solely to the dramatic all the while neglecting the countless ways God is at work in day-to-day life. We often have a dismissive or disdainful attitude toward the simple and ordinary things, in ourselves and in others. Since they are done in humbleness and lowliness, we might not recognize them as of God, and therefore we might treat them as insignificant or unsacred.
The Word rightly convicts us when we join the world’s celebration of the scintillating rather than rest in the knowledge that God labors through the lowly. When the Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness, He also then reveals the precious news that Christ Jesus has indeed dealt with all our sin in the fullest way possible. He took on our ordinary flesh and blood, lived our earthly life, and carried a hard and heavy cross all the way to death and through death, for us. Christ was made low for us, that we might be exalted with Him in resurrection life. Repenting of our sins, we also then take comfort in the knowledge of the Gospel—redemption in His name.
At the Ready
Finally, certain that God works through them in ordinary callings, baptized believers in Jesus stand at the ready for whatever might unfold for them. This includes first and foremost a life of sanctification. In the smallest and most commonplace ways, the Spirit does new things in the new creatures remade through the Gospel. Employees work hard and play fair in industry and business. Supervisors manage fairly and equitably, but also firmly when necessary. Children avoid laziness, disobedience, and disrespectfulness, seeking to honor God in their relationships at home, at school, and at play. Mothers and fathers parent as God’s instruments, not disciplining out of self-indulgence or uncontrolled anger, but always with the good of the child above their personal needs or emotions. Healthcare workers and others in the helping professions serve patients and clients with the care and conscientiousness they would offer their own loved ones. Those given civic authority or political power rule not for themselves or for their own tribal agenda, but equitably, reasonably, dispassionately, and sacrificially, placing the needs of the community above oneself. When Christians recognize that they are but the masks of God in the structures of His creation, they seek the highest and most helpful virtues for the world they serve.
Excerpt adapted from Callings for Life: God’s Plan, Your Purpose, copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Leininger. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To learn more about God’s calling for your life, work through the five sessions in Callings for Life.