By Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D.,
My childhood church embraced the testimony tradition. Weekly, I heard stories of lives changed and worlds transformed. God was healer, provider, way maker, and mind regulator. I listened to extraordinary stories of cancer healed and bills paid. I believed because I was surrounded by the evidence of belief; God could and did make a way out of now way.
But it isn’t the extraordinary stories that echo in my spirit today. Instead, I can still hear the testimonies of the saints who rejoiced in the God of the ordinary. Prayer meeting was a chance simply to thank God for waking you up in the morning, clothed in your right mind. Sometimes the testimony was a simple, “I’m so glad I’m here, in Jesus’ name.” There was as much rejoicing for food on the table and shoes on one’s feet, as there was for miraculous wonders.
I wonder if we are thankful enough, praiseful enough, to God of the ordinary. I’m often expecting, hoping, and praying for the extraordinary things I need in my life, that I fail to show enough gratitude for the holy that is the everyday business of life. It is a wonder to wake up in the morning, with one’s mental facilities still in tact. We should rejoice in the food on our table and the clothes on our back. We must celebrate on behalf of fixed hearts and made up minds.
There is a song that says: “I’ll believe I’ll testify, while I have a chance, because I may not have a chance, anymore.” Our testimonies are daily required, most especially when they are the testimonies of God caring about our most mundane needs. We never know when we’ll get a chance again to say “thank you” for all the unspoken and unnamed ways we are blessed on any given day.
How can we believe that God will do the extraordinary when we fail to see God in the midst of the ordinary? This Lenten season, I pray that our eyes are open to God with us, in the quotidian and commonplace.
Dr. Yolanda Pierce is the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Liaison with the Princeton University Center for African American Studies. She blogs @ Reflections of an Afro-Christian Scholar