By Steven Norris
“Everybody wants a revolution but nobody wants to do the dishes.” A framed print of the quote hangs over the sink in my friend’s kitchen — a stark reminder of the important distinction between ideals and reality.
I am an idealist. One of my mentors lovingly informed me that it would be one of the most difficult things for me to overcome in ministry. An idealist is one who is guided and motivated more by principle, goals, purpose, or vision over practical considerations.
For those of us who live our lives from 30,000 feet above sea level, it is easy to overlook the importance of practical day-to-day concerns. I need gentle reminders to take my vitamins, get enough exercise, and do my daily stretches for my back. Such a boring, mundane routine is actually life-giving when I realize that it allows me to focus on the big-picture items that truly excite and motivate me.
This week, one of the students in my church asked me about the spiritual practices that sustain me in ministry. Immediately, I was transported back in time to a class I taught on the importance of a “rule of life.” The idea is taken from the monastic tradition — the “Rule of St. Benedict” being the most famous of such rules.
In such a “rule,” a community articulates the practices that will govern their life together. It includes things like virtues that the community is striving to embody (humility, hospitality, and obedience); daily practices that members will observe (prayer, scripture reading, and work); and practical concerns about daily living (eating, clothing, caring for the sick).
This student came to me with an assignment to interview a number of people in their life about their own spiritual journey and the practices that support the life of faith. I have been practicing my own personal rule for some years now. It includes daily practices of prayer and scripture reading (whether I particularly feel like it or not). It includes weekly rhythms of work and rest. It includes regularly gathering with a group of other men who share life together, encourage one another, pray for one another, and hold each other accountable for the values that we have in common.
More recently, that daily rule has also included more mundane tasks like doing the dishes, helping my wife with laundry, and making the bed. I am not special in this. These are the things that come with being a responsible adult. However, done with intention, they can be things that support healthy spiritual growth as well. Large-scale change happens in our world by the accumulation of small acts of faithfulness.
The anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” If I want to see revolutionary change in my life, in my church, or in our world, it begins with daily habits of faithfulness. The Kingdom of God is found in these small, accumulated, individual acts working together to bring revolutionary change.