I liked Matt Redmond’s slim little volume, “The God of the Mundane.”
After a second read, I liked it a lot.
Redmond, a former pastor who now works in banking, offers a healthful counterpoint to the breathless vision-casting Christian-living hype that is served up by the shining-teeth rock stars of contemporary evangelicalism. He writes for the vast majority of us who live in obscurity and are doing well just to make it day by day, thank you.
Redmond offers a series of reflective vignettes – scenes of normalcy within which he teases out the hints of grace, truth, and beauty. His storytelling style puts me in mind of Garrison Keillor, if the Minnesotan monologist were seasoned with the Christ-captivated themes of Tim Keller. For instance, he tells the story of a 20-something lady who comes to him at the bank, trying to figure out how to make her slim paycheck cover her overdraft and at the same time pay the insurance deductible for her cancer treatments.
“I suck at life,” she whispered.
In that line and the story that followed, Redmond had me. Let’s be honest – we feed the motivational book industry because, deep within, we feel like we suck at life. Yes, we want to better ourselves, but in the process we hit massive walls. Redmond reminds us that even in the boring, monotonous, tiresome, and weary days, we are not abandoned by God. Even when we suck at life – we are not rejected for our suckiness.
I might also comment Redmond’s voice. He writes with the cadences of the Southern humorist/essayist school. The late Lewis Grizzard would have hooted at Redmond’s explanation of the culinary virtues of Chicken Fingers, which Redmond, a Southerner, identifies as “our foie gras.”
Essential to the the Southern imagination is an enchanted perception of place. As Redmond wistfully remembers his grandparents’ home through the eyes of a child, I am right with him. For whatever reason, we from the south cling tightly to place and heritage – even to the point of idolatry. Redmond however, draws the redeeming lesson. He expresses sadness at the fact that as an adult, the grandparents’ home has shrunk – the reality never lives up to the wide-eyed romanticism of our past:
“Driving by that house a few dozen times as an adult revealed the honest-to-God truth: the place is not quite as big as I remember. In fact, it seems small in comparison. I’m still disappointed, and work up scenarios that alter the reality. My physical growth and a little bit of perspective have changed the way I view such spaces. It is a disappointing thing for this to happen, for I would prefer to have kept the memory intact along with the wonder.” (65)
All things shrink in stature as we age.
As he has grown, Redmond has seen God grow exponentially larger – or rather his comprehension of the reality of the living God has grown exponentially larger. And what’s more, that comprehension has splashed over the rest of reality, infusing every nook and cranny, every moment, every atom with meaning:
“But instead, everything is enlarging. God now has to do with everything. Everything. And not just my own little need to escape hell.
The room has become a universe of inexhaustible ideas, and feelings, and compulsions, and passions, and dreams, and hopes. No longer am I inhabiting the closet-like space of getting people to walk an aisle, and fill out a card, and be good while doing so, and then supposing we have lived the Christian life. The claustrophobia of such a space would kill me now.
Not now. I’ve now sat in the room of hovering stars being called by name, and an earth groaning under the weight of original sin. The room of the impoverished the world over, and chefs who can work culinary miracles with the raw ma- terials of creation. The room of disabilities and exceptional abilities. The room of weariness and wonder. The room of sexuality and suffering. The room of grace, and mercy, and failure, and falling. A room so big, idealism is lost.” (66-67)
I confess that I’ve read this book multiple times, and have profited with each reading. I wholeheartedly endorse it for your edification, and what’s more, for your enjoyment.
Soli Deo Gloria
Disclaimer: I sit on the board of Doulos Resources, which publishes Redmond’s book. I received a free copy of this book, but am otherwise uncompensated. This endorsement is my own, and does not represent Doulos or the other board members.