Radical Obedience in Ordinary Life

By Bethany Mathis 
Originally Published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 2 

The word radical, for me, typically drums up images of leaving all I own to travel overseas, having a large ministry, or a platform of some kind. Personally, I have dreamed big dreams of large stages, big influence, and stepping into a God-sized life that He had waiting for me. In spite of my own stubbornness, in the last few years God has worked out in me a new idea of what it means to be radically obedient. The world tells us that in order to live radically we must live a life that is far-reaching. That we must extend our influence and dream big.  

In light of the culture that begs us to live a big life and reach for something greater, sometimes my everyday life can feel a little boring. I have two young children, and most of my days are characterized by discipline, Play-Doh, making dinner, and bed time stories. There was a time not long ago when I was praying consistently for God’s will to be revealed to me. I think I pictured something like writing in the sky and then the floodgates to the blessing and favor would begin. I would be stepping into God’s will–the ethereal, mystical will that everyone seems to be chasing. Then, I would finally have the big life full of adventure that my Instagram feed paints so perfectly.  

There came a time, however, when I had to ask the question: Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said to take up our cross and follow Him? Because to me, the road to Calvary that this statement made by Jesus is pointing to didn’t look much like favor. It didn’t resemble fame. More than anything, it looked like death.  

Are we doing something wrong if we are content living quiet lives? Aren’t Christian women expected to storm the gates of hell with our big dreams? Aren’t we supposed to be world changers? What happens when we love Jesus and we hurt for the lost, but we are living ordinary lives?  

I am proposing that living an ordinary and faithful life isn’t a failure at all. I think that this is, in fact, the very thing that will push back the darkness. Do we need women with dreams of overseas missions and book deals? Absolutely. Those ministries are incredibly valuable. However, the majority of women will inevitably live a seemingly ordinary existence. Quiet faithfulness has been devalued by our Christian culture and replaced with the idea that we must change the world on large scale. We must enlarge our territories, so to speak, and broaden our influence. So, what happens when, in this season of life, our influence only reaches our children? What if my “territory” only extends to my next door neighbor? Have I failed?  

I think the answer to that question is a decisive “no.” 

No, dear sister, you have not failed. In fact, I think that quiet faithfulness and obedience to the Lord in the face of a world who is telling you to be more is what will shine in a dark world. There is no failure in discipling your kids well. There is no failure in exercising consistent kindness to your husband. There is no failure in reaching out to your neighbor and investing your time to love them well. There is no failure in attending a local church and serving faithfully. There is no failure in consistently feeding your own soul through the Word in the quiet moments before the day begins. The breakdown happens when we see these things as not enough, and the shouts to chase something bigger makes us restless. It comes when we look at the lives of other women and feel above or beneath them depending on a set of criteria we have manufactured ourselves. Always chasing something bigger makes us impatient and discontent. If you have a dream of writing or teaching or traveling, by all means pursue it for God’s glory. But don’t go after something simply because you feel like what you are isn’t enough.  

Sometimes radical obedience looks like ordinary life characterized by consistent faithfulness to the small things. Growing in our knowledge of the Scriptures when we don’t feel like giving up time. Pointing our children to Jesus when we would rather be harsh. Being a helper for our husbands when we don’t feel like being kind. Serving our local church, loving our neighbors, or serving the poor in our community. These are all things that God uses to further His kingdom. These are all things that work to push back the darkness.  

I’ll never forget the prayer I prayed on my back porch in the early hours of the morning a few years ago. I told God I didn’t care what my life ended up looking like as long as it was what He wanted. I surrendered all my big dreams and said I only wanted Him. Since then, God has pulled me closer than I have ever experienced. I have found Him while I’m doing the dishes. I’ve experienced Him when I’m playing with my children, when I’m picking up toys, or when I’m driving my daughter to preschool. All of a sudden my ordinary days didn’t seem so insignificant. They felt like worship. They took on an eternal significance that only comes through the hope found in Christ. My search for meaning was not so much a search anymore, but a daily surrender to obey. This obedience is not always an easy surrender, and I fail regularly. The crosses we carry aren’t always the easiest loads. They don’t always feel like favor or fame. However, they always lead to the all sufficient grace of our Lord. The blood of Jesus doesn’t just fill the cracks of my depravity but covers the entire landscape. It fills every corner. It frees me from the shackles of having to chase a stage or something greater than my “ordinary” life.  

Daily, consistent, quiet, faithful obedience to our God is eternally significant. We must never forget that. Let us be women who surrender our big dreams, who resolve and commit to faithfulness no matter the tasks that are set before us. Whether those tasks bring us fame or to the kitchen table with our family. Whether they send us overseas or across the road. Whether they send us to a stadium of women to teach or to a small group at your local church. Let us be faithful.  

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