In the July/August issue of Christianity Today, the new President and CEO of the magazine, Timothy Dalrymple, talks of the “humble heroism of everyday faithfulness” in his From the President page. In a world of constant attractions and distractions, this simple word is timely. It’s always timely.
I am reminded of the book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction Discipleship in an Instant Society, by Eugene H. Peterson. This book that came to my attention about 38 years ago when I was in college. A fellow Intervarsity member had just purchased the book to read. Her quiet, unassuming involvement in our group carried the weight and strength of authenticity, and the title of her purchase convicted me.
I felt impressed that I should read it. I had already become aware of my tendency to be controlled by those attractions and distractions that clamor for attention by reading the title of another book that caught my attention: Tyranny of the Urgent, by Charles Hummel, another Intervarsity connection.
These memories are clear to me. I was in my senior year of college, wondering expectantly what the future lay in store. I was busy with involvement in Intervarsity, finishing up an English Literature major and other commitments, complaining (maybe more like boasting) about being busy, desiring to follow and to be used by God.
God was talking to me in those days. I took notice. I had half an intention to read one or both books. I thought it might be a good idea. I felt like maybe God was saying something to me, but I probably won’t ever know exactly what God would have said to me if I had read them.
If I am being honest, I might have let my heart convince me there was no time for standing still, taking what seemed like a long way around to read books about simplifying my life and just humbly being faithful.
My desk at the office is cluttered with papers, magazines, notes, tokens of meaning and dozens of things that will catch not much more than my attention. My bedroom is cluttered with books and magazines I have read, books I have started reading, books I bought with the intention of reading – including books, no doubt, that never will read. Things have accumulated everywhere they lay waiting for some conviction of devoted simplicity to take hold on me.
I am still driven by the tyranny of the urgent, and a long obedience in the same direction is more the measurement of God’s faithfulness to me than any intention I have carried out in my own desire. I doubt I am unique in this, but that is not a great consolation.
My striving has taken me far afield, full of fits and starts and inconsistencies.
About seven years ago I felt God softly weighing on me the idea of writing. Rather, it was some years before that, really, that He began weighing on me the conviction that I should write. I only took the first steps about seven years ago.
I have written quite a bit in those intervening years up to this moment. I treasure the time I have spent listening, contemplating, writing, searching my heart, searching for God’s voice, finding mine. I am thankful God is faithful to call me from the attractions and distractions that threaten to keep my faith shallow and ineffectual. I am thankful for God’s long obedience in the same direction – His faithfulness to a purpose that somehow includes me.
There isn’t a lot of heroism in this. Not for me. Nor maybe even much humility. Humble heroes are the unsung examples of quiet faithfulness to God’s purpose. We think of them today in the trenches of the wars fought to protect the freedoms that exist in this country, and we should think of them today in the trenches of the spiritual wars fought to set the captives free from the sin that so easily entangles us as a people and a nation. In all of it, our efforts are just the smallest emulation of God’s great faithfulness.