Posted in musings

the unknown saints

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different saints of the church – how each of them lived in radically different times and places, struggled with different vices and temptations, encountered different obstacles and endured different hardships, and generally painted an incredibly unique picture of beauty and holiness. Each one is an inspiration, and each one points even more surely to God than to themselves (since humility is, after all, a characteristic of righteousness).

And then I started thinking about all the “normal” people, living ordinary lives, seeking to serve God in whatever obscurity they were born into – people whose names the church doesn’t know, who never sought the acclaim or praise of men, but lived simply for God. I’d imagine there are a lot of these men and women, whose lives were never marked by anything spectacular, but who, day in and day out, with quiet perseverance, strove to follow God and live by faith, pouring His grace into their families and communities through their words and deeds.

Right now, the humility of these unknown saints is a powerful example to me. I’m living a fairly mundane and obscure life right now: no one knows me at church the way I used to be known in the small church I grew up in, or seeks me out to talk about ideas and theology; at work, I’m an important part of the team but not an irreplaceable one, and my inabilities and weaknesses are constantly being pressed; in my family, life operates on a pretty steady turntable of playing with the toddlers, helping them sleep, changing their clothes/diapers, and making sure they’re fed. There is fodder for profound thought, but little time or energy to put into it; there are needs in the community around me, but the needs of my own little family often take all that I have to give. I’m not involved in any great cause or movement that is trying to change the world, tackle injustice, or combat oppression.

But in every moment of every day I have just as much opportunity – and just as much responsibility – to live faithfully for Christ as the people who are doing those great and visible labors for the kingdom. If I live for Him, if I lay my life down sacrificially in the little chances that arise everyday as a mother and an employee, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices. The righteousness wouldn’t even be mine anyway, since it comes through the grace of God: why should I seek praise for it? And who am I to deserve or thirst for the acclaim of men, when I can see all too clearly the places in my soul that are far from being conformed to the image of Christ: the judgment, the resentment, the preoccupation with myself, the apathy toward spiritual things?

Oh unknown saints of the church, who lived and toiled out of the sight of those who might have remembered your names through the generations, but who lived faithfully for God regardless of the earthly fame it brought you, please pray for me, that I too might live faithfully, might care so much about pleasing God that the praise of men no longer seems a jewel worth striving for as long as He is honored. Please pray that I might follow Him unfailingly, through tiredness and trivialities, through the everyday challenges that give me the chance to love and sacrifice or choose my own comfort again.

2 thoughts on “the unknown saints

  1. Today at school, the meditation that began the first period of classes mentioned the St. Theresa of Calcutta quote, “Not everyone has the opportunity to do great things, but everyone can do small things with great love.” Loved that thought, and the thoughts you expressed here! Small things, with great love.

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