My name is Cathy Smith. Kind of an ordinary name, isn’t it? No one has trouble spelling it, at any rate. I’m a Christian, a wife, a mom, grandma, retired teacher, daughter, sister, aunt, Canadian, gardener, friend, reader, church member, bulletin editor, catechism teacher, history buff, choir member, art lover, neighbour and homemaker. And now a writer, too! But Christian was first on the list for a reason. It’s an indelible part of who I am, like my name. I’m delighted to be here, the newest CC team member, writing for a publication that also puts Christian first. My column will highlight the efforts of an everyday Christian like me to live, sometimes faithfully, sometimes stumblingly, as a Christian every day of my life.
Even ordinary Christians can be called to walk extraordinary paths. I’ve been married for thirty-two years to someone who does not share my faith. I have three children. One is a Christian. Two call themselves atheists. I love my local church dearly and have been a member for thirty-two years, but I favour women in church office, and my congregation does not ordain women. I’ve taught hundreds of kids in two Christian schools, both elementary and secondary. I carry them all with me, invisible tattoos, my life inked with their names and faces. They are my very own personal cloud of witnesses. I live in a small town, where, like the bar in Cheers, “everybody knows your name.” The crucible of my Christian faith is my marriage, my family, my church, my students, my community. Jesus calls me to practise my discipleship close to home.
I remember having a cool family Bible as a kid. It had four different versions of Scripture lined up side by side on one page. I loved that Bible. Especially the translation that offered up Paul’s rebuke to the Galatians this way: “You stupid Galatians!” (Gal. 3:1). That was deliciously scandalous to my childish ears. We weren’t allowed to call one another “stupid”! When I had friends over, I always chose that passage to read aloud.
I’m hoping that my reflections on living as an everyday Christian might serve a similar function. Something to line up beside your experiences. A gauge. A mark on the wall. Or perhaps, a mirror, where you’ll see yourself – your pilgrimage as ordinary and extraordinary as mine. Let’s compare notes. Here’s my first:
Another Sunday morning church service. At 55, having attended church twice a Sunday for most of my life, I’ve probably sat through more than 5000 services in my day. You might think it just gets ordinary and repetitive after a while. Not so.
These are the things I saw at church yesterday.
I saw a doting dad smile in absolute adoration at his bald young son. I saw fresh purple coneflowers and white Shasta daisies grace the sanctuary in glass vases that sparkled with the sunlight streaming in from the window. I saw a restless four year old rest his head trustingly on the shoulder of his fourteen year old babysitter. I saw an usher joke with an old friend as he headed into church. I saw a friendly adult ask a teen how things were going. I saw a middle-aged woman ask the same of an elderly man. I saw an organist and pianist play duets that offered up their best accompaniment to the congregation and the Lord.
I saw a house of God full to the brim with expectant faces, eager for the good news of God’s faithfulness to all generations. I saw a young pastor give his utmost to do justice to the Word of God and the sacrament of baptism to two new members. He preached with convicted preparedness, and spoke to the parents with warmth and hope. I saw a young wife and mother slip her hand into her husband’s as they stood together to speak their thankful vow. I saw the children of our church family skip to the front to witness the baptisms up close, the pastor handling the milling chaos with good humour and ease. I saw a senior citizen lean forward, smiling, totally engaged in the moment.
I saw the faithful dig into their wallets and give to the work of the church. I saw a powerpoint slide show that highlighted the fun and energy of the VBS program held the week before. Dozens of teachers and helpers, grinning into the camera. A hundred children or more sporting colourful t-shirts, working on crafts, and singing songs.
I saw a grandma lift her hands in quiet praise during the doxology.
I saw God work. It’s fearsomely beautiful to behold.