Waiting in the Ordinary

I’ve been reading over Gene Edward Veith’s book, God at Work, a second time this weekend. He gives the reader much to think about concerning our vocations. One point that he emphasizes that I particularly like is that our vocation involves the here and now. What is our current situation? Who is our neighbor? How can we love and serve them in our present placement and calling? So often we are planners. Whether we are waiting to get out of school for the job that we really want, waiting to finally get pregnant so we can be a mom, or waiting for that promotion that we’ve been working so hard for, we tend to think of our vocation in the future.  You know, our real calling. While it is good to have goals and growth in our abilities to serve, Veith helps the reader to recognize that God is calling us to love and serve our neighbor in everyday life, not just in our big dreams and plans.
This means vocation is played out not just in extraordinary acts—the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday—but in the realm of the ordinary. Whatever we face in the often humdrum present—washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging our with our friends—this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love. We are to love our neighbors—that is, the people who are actually around us, as opposed to the abstract humanity of the theorists. These neighbors constitute the relationships that we are in right now, and our vocation is for God to serve them through us (59).
In reflecting on this, I made a connection with this truth and the advent season. It is a season of waiting and anticipation. We empathize with those who waited thousands of years for the Messiah as we are waiting ourselves for his return. Isn’t there a sense in which we all want to do something big for the Lord before he returns? Most of us are aware that our purpose, or “chief end”, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But I’ll admit, I’m not necessarily praising the Lord when I’m disciplining my child for the fourteenth time about throwing away her trash. The doctrine of vocation reminds me that God is glorified when I am loving and serving my neighbor. In my vocation as a mom, I’ve got three little neighbors in the realm of my ordinary. Thankfully, Veith also encourages that God works through our vocations despite ourselves. The great thing is what God has already done for us. And we are waiting for the next great thing—our Bridegroom coming for his bride. While we wait, God has put most of us in the ordinary. When I think of the many vocations I have as a wife, a mother, daughter, sister, friend, citizen, church member, Bible study teacher, and writer, my neighborhood looks pretty big, actually. My ordinary can be quite overwhelming. But as I work in my vocations, I am also reminded by the advent season that more than anything I am a receiver. I am a receiver of the abundant grace of God. Just this morning I partook in receiving Christ and all his benefits in the preached Word and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It seemed pretty ordinary. It’s anything but. God is at Work. The second Person of the trinity descended to the womb of a young virgin, and was born a helpless babe. He has fulfilled all righteousness and bore the curse of our sin. Three days after his death, he rose from the grave and is now sitting at the right hand of his Father. What a gift we have been given! As God is working now, bringing in the full number of his bride and sanctifying us into the likeness of his Son, we wait. God is lovingly serving us everyday. While our vocations my seem ordinary, God’s work in them is most certainly not.