Caring for Words

Life Among the Mean

“It is inbred that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

No doubt the modern language rendition of English missionary Oswald Chambers' classic devotional uses a word other than “mean” to describe streets and people, as our understanding of the word in today's less literate culture is limited. Mean streets are not streets full of unkind people, and mean people are not just the unkind, but Chambers has a much richer meaning in mind: streets which are mean are those walks of life which are common, humble, undignified, and plebeian, which are inconsequential and insignificant. In short, little.

He is talking about the quotidian, about mundane, ordinary life, life that attracts little attention or notice. My life, and probably yours. "Little" lives.

I used to think God wanted me to do something big. Now I know he wanted me to do something even bigger, to live exceptionally by His grace in the ordinariness of each day, a day in which I pay bills, make phone calls, write a letter, do taxes, clean the garage, attend church, answer emails, and clean dishes.

To the extent I do these things for his glory, I have lived an exceptional life. There are no little people.  We are God's images, little Christs, and that's not little.