Grace and Mercy in Chicken Fingers: Matt Redmond’s God of the Mundane

I recently came across a book that really spoke to me called The God Of […]

Matt Schneider / 4.9.15

I recently came across a book that really spoke to me called The God Of The Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life for Ordinary People (2012) by Matthew B. Redmond. The thing I like most about the book is it’s pastoral—it really ministered to me as I read it. It’s main thrust is that God is at work in the ordinariness of our mostly mundane lives. This is actually the opposite of what one often hears in Christian circles (across the ideological spectrum) that urge us to do radical things and find God in mountain-top experiences.

Here is the description on the back of the book:

This is a book about pastors, plumbers, dental hygienists, and stay-at-home moms. It finds grace and mercy in chicken fingers, smiles from strangers, and classic films, and ultimately convicts us of something Matt Redmond has learned for himself: there is a God of the mundane, and it’s not about what we do for him. It’s about what he does for us.

The book is a haven for people like you and me who have burnout from the church of do more, try harder. Often such messages lead to bitterness, disappointment, and hopelessness rather than the faith they command. Redmond not only has been exhausted by these messages himself, but as a former pastor, he humbly admits to having at times implored his weary flock to do things like sell it all and become missionaries, when so many were struggling through their mundane existence: “It never felt right, but it preached well.”

Matt Redmond

Matt Redmond and his wife, Bethany. Photo courtesy of Matt Redmond.

No longer a pastor but now working a regular job at a bank branch, Redmond is convinced that what people need to hear is a message of everyday grace. In the book he gets this across in a very approachable way that is in sync with his point, often through personal anecdotes. Here are some highlights I hope will make you want to buy the book here:

I had two people in mind as I wrote. … The first is the stay-at-home mom. She does the same chores everyday. She fixes meals not always appreciated. She changes diapers, does laundry, dusts, does homework, sweeps and heals sick kids, world without end. And then she goes to church and hears sermons, or is recommended books that make her sick with worry that she is not doing enough. … But there was another. A man, stuck. Stuck in a job that feels small—a job making him feel small. He is not embarrassed of his job so much as just miserable. … He believes the gospel but has no idea what that means for him in this dead-end job. He also reads books and hears sermons. And they make his work feel even smaller. … I wanted him to believe his work was inherently spiritual and good. Even if he hates it each and every moment.

My favorite story from the book is one about Redmond’s dental hygienist, Candance, who’s had her ordinary job for 30 years. At a dental cleaning, which he describes  in detail, he asks Candance why she decided to do what she does for a living. She responds:

‘I don’t know … When I was a little girl, I was terrified of the dentist and threw up every time I had to go. … When I graduated from high school, I figured I had to something. So I studied to do this … I used to have this little boy who came to me. And he would throw up every single time he came. … I would never get to finish cleaning his teeth. One day I decided along with his mom, that we were gonna just clean him up and sit him right back down in the chair and finish. … And he never threw up again. I suppose I’m doing this cause I know what it feels like to be scared of the dentist.

Redmond goes on to say:

51bs2PvrmEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Candace is a Christian and we have talked about church life and faith a good bit before. Actually she talks and I nod. If she had not been holding shiny sharp objects in my mouth I would’ve told her how glad I am she does what she does. When sin entered the world through Adam’s Fall, along with it came death and pain. Also, it ushered in plaque and tartar, cavities and abscesses, root canals and gums that get damaged. And children full of fear to the point that their stomachs do violence to the whole room. Candace’s hospitality, smiles, digital picture frames, and skills are pushing back Adam’s Fall, day-in and day-out. When she wields those weapons of mouth destruction she is not just fighting gum disease and the need for a filling, she is fighting against the effects of sin.

Thank God for Candace. She doesn’t need to sell all her belongings and become a missionary for God to be at work in her vocation. Not that there is anything at all wrong with foreign missions, but there is a problem with a Christianity that tells us to serve God we must go to comparable extremes, living fantastically radical lives. Most dental hygienists look to the world as nobodies special, and as a matter of fact, that’s exactly who Redmond urges all of us to be:

The ‘you’re nobody special’ message may be the most freeing message of all. Especially for those who have the banner of ‘mundane’ flying kite-high over their life. Now you can just be yourself. Over against being the abstract, ‘special,’ you can land on the hard concrete reality of being yourself. Only more so. No need to be the pie-in-the-sky version of someone else’s idea of what special is. You can now just love God, love others, and be nobody.

I recently reached out to Redmond when I learned he and I live in the same town. He was surprised to read in my email to him that I found his book life-giving. He wrote me back, “‘Life-giving?’ That’s about as high a compliment as I can imagine. There is a strangeness in hearing that, though.” I’m sure it’s strange, but it’s true that a book that gave an ambitious minister like me permission to be nobody was a liberating gesture of pastoral care.

Update: Click here to listen to Matt Schneider interviewing Matthew B. Redmond on The God of the Mundane.