Being Guided by the Ordinary – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for FREE this week on Kindle!
by Mark Votava
- Relational, slow, steady
As I have lived in my neighborhood for ten years now, I have seen God work in the ordinary. It is relational. It is slow. It is steady.
- Not religious, not what we define as “spiritual,” not a ministry
It is beautiful. It is not religious. It is not what we define as “spiritual.” It is not a ministry.
- Not a program, not a project
It is not a program. It is not a project. It is hard to communicate.
- Life together in the ordinary
But, this is what the body of Christ is called to: life together in the ordinary particulars of a neighborhood. The body of Christ is called to seek God within the ordinary relationships of a place. This is how we can live in communion with our Creator, with one another, and with the created world around us.
- The ordinary will guide us
The ordinary will open up our lives to be the body of Christ together in everyday life. The ordinary will heal, nurture, and care for the body in beautiful ways. The ordinary will be our prophetic witness. The ordinary will guide us.
- The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion
The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion. The ordinary will invite “the real.” The ordinary will speak to us. The ordinary will not be manipulated.
- The ordinary holds wisdom
The ordinary holds wisdom. The ordinary is for the body of Christ what blood is to a human body: Blood fills our human bodies the way the ordinary is to fill the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is intertwined with the ordinary. If we disregard the ordinary we disregard the church.
- Disillusionment and deconstruction
I am hesitant to tell my story because it is one of disillusionment and deconstruction. Those terms are not always easy to absorb. But, I am going to tell it anyway, the best I can. I have always felt a strong disconnection in my experience with the church.
- What would people think?
I have tried and tried but it just seems strange and irrelevant to me, for many of the reasons I have already talked about. I remember when our church first moved to the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to try to live out our faith together. I was scared and timid. I didn’t know anyone there. What would people think?
- Moving into the Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004
What would my parents say about me dropping individual opportunities for “success?” But, I wanted to do something that would be both counter-cultural and sustain me as a follower of Christ. So when I moved into Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004 it was a risk I took that very few really understood. Our parish was not a very popular place to live.
- God gave me an imagination for the place
It had lots of abandoned buildings and empty streets. The nights and the weekends were pretty dead and not too many people liked to hang out there. The built environment needed work and there was a lot of poverty. But I believe God gave me an imagination for the place.
- Questioning myself
I remember walking the streets and questioning myself many times about my decision to move there. One day I woke up with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t understand why I was so emotional. Looking back I think I was just weary and lonely.
- The body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life
But, as I began to settle there, God planted hopeful possibilities in my imagination. I began asking, “What could this place become?” There were many church buildings and Sunday meeting spaces in Downtown Tacoma, but the body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life. I had to slowly work through my fears, insecurities, loneliness, and pain.
- Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy
I wanted to share life with others in Downtown Tacoma, but it was more difficult than I had thought. My journey into the ordinary of this place has started to lead me through my pain and disconnection toward love and compassion. Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy.
- All the stories remain unfinished
I experience a lot of loneliness and pain still, but my imagination is alive and growing and cannot be captivated. Downtown Tacoma is an open book waiting to be written still today. All the stories remain unfinished. The ordinary of this neighborhood is becoming a part of my redemption, salvation and discipleship.
How can we learn to listen to the ordinary moments of life? What have you discovered about God through the ordinary?