Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: The God of the Mundane by Matthew B. Redmond


I have a confession to make. I did not expect to enjoy reading The God of the Mundane as much as I did. I have followed Matt Redmond’s blog, Echoes and Stars, for a while, as well as his previous blog. I was there to read the posts that were the genesis of this book. Matt is a great writer, and his words prompt the reader to think. However, while part of me agreed with his premise that led to the book, another part of me was fighting it.

In the blog posts and the book, Matt addresses the current movement of radicalism in the church. He makes mention of "rock star" preachers who preach and demand that we must give up everything and move to a remote island somewhere as missionaries in order to show our faithfulness. He warns us that we make Paul the focus of the story rather than the many nameless, ordinary faithful to whom he wrote his letters. Matt questions whether people realize that God can be glorified even in the mundane lives of the majority.

Like Matt, I grew up in the South. I also grew up in an ultra-conservative denomination. The career choices of pastor or missionary were always held in great esteem and also provided proof of one’s spiritual maturity. As a little girl, I dreamed of being a missionary. I always stood up or raised my hand when pastors or speakers evoked the call of Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” I felt the call down to my toes. Every part of me was willing, desirous, of that life no matter the trials that came with it.

When I read those initial blog posts, I admit I bristled. The emphasis on missions only intensified when I entered college ministry, and I had attended many conferences like the ones Matt seemed to be calling out. They had moved me. The insinuations that the way I had been taught and challenged by various pastors, directors, speakers could be misguided caused me to balk. It seemed, upon my first readings of the blog posts which inspired this book, that he was even making light of the Great Commission itself.


However, reading Matt’s book made me remember something. It made me remember the inside cover of a journal from college and the words I had written there. I told God that I didn’t want my life to be about fireworks...a great display of me. I wanted instead to quietly bring Glory to His name. After college, I made plans for seminary and the mission field. And, then the plans changed. Always, deep down, I felt as though I failed Him...that I missed the mark. Matt’s book helped me to let that go. Even as a homeschool mom investing all my life and time into the development of two precious people, I felt something was missing. I longed for the fireworks I had prayed against so long ago. There must be something out there--something greater I should be doing besides this, besides loving and serving my family and showing kindness and love to those around me along the way.

Matt also reminded me of Paul’s challenge in the letter to the Thessalonians: ...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.... Somewhere along the way I forgot that it was okay to be ordinary. I forgot that the people in the Bible stories I loved were just ordinary people, living life, having babies and caring for them, tending sheep. The extraordinary thing was their God. My God. This life is not about the great things I do for Him. It’s about showing up, in the ordinary, and allowing God to meet me here. It’s about being available for His use, however menial or small it seems to me. Soli Deo Gloria.

I enjoyed the book immensely. The stories made me think about many things in a new light. Although I do not agree completely with Matt on all points, the book fleshed out his principal theme in a way that resonated in me. It also provided freedom from a burden I had wrongly carried far too long. And, my initial apprehensions were quelled. At one point Matt makes reference to Jesus’ statement in Mark 9:41--For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. This book was like a much needed cup of water for me, and I am grateful Matt took the time to write it.

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