We humans like big stories. We are often unwilling to engage in and be moved by the ordinary and the small. We flock to movies about super heroes; we break all the records when someone puts all the super heroes into one movie together. If God really wanted to impress Abraham, He could have told him he’d have as many children as tickets sold to Avengers: Infinity War. And this desire for bigness pervades all areas of life, even (especially?) our interactions with grace offered to us by God and man.

And part of that is Jesus’ fault, really. We are offered such grace on the cross that we are pushed to our limits to even express its bigness. In the best of our hymns I find a palpable tension that is caused by hymn writers continuing to look for adequate words for the gift of grace — but not ever quite finding them. The goodness of our God is ineffable. But we forget that the goodness of grace is also profoundly ordinary, and it is there in the ordinary that we are so prone to miss it. Not only do we miss it, we often fuss about it.

Chesterton has a famous quote:

The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.

We all read it and sigh in our affirmation of its beauty, and we glory in its encouragement for those of us (all of us) who spend our days in the domestic ordinary. But we still don’t believe we find big grace in that place. We think it’s a nice sentiment, but we long for the Marvel universe at every turn. If we see grace at all, we identify it with the grace offered the addict, the prostitute, the prodigal. We are ostriches when it comes to ordinary kindness. This tendency to overlook the daily leaves us prostrate in the dust; however, God and His saints are in the ordinary — exactly where we are. He lifts up our faces to the hills — to see from whence our help comes. And He does this principally at the cross, where our one eternal need is met. But He also does it, through His people, when we walk by the way, when we sit in the house, when we lie down, and when we rise. He offers us grace in the least romantic places of our days, even in the temporal.

I had an experience of the importance of this type of grace this weekend. It demands a little set up; bear with me please.

I am quite bad at the physical side of life. My shins look similar to my nine year old son’s; no one has ever called me graceful. I have burn guards on my oven racks due to a remarkable habit of running my bare skin into them. Car wrecks are not something with which I lack familiarity. I do not know the colors of some of the walls of my home. Or even their color family. This physical incompetence is a product of the fall. I am broken and so I break things. I am sinful and so I don’t care enough to be careful. This is not my husband’s favorite attribute of mine. Unlike so many other of my flaws, it has not become for him endearing; there is no shade of fondness in his reaction. Paul is not a quiet person. He’s expressive, loud, and exuberant, and his desire in this area has been made quite clear. My dear husband has loudly proclaimed that he would like me to take a small bit more care so that I injure myself and our possessions just a little less. It’s an entirely reasonable desire on his part, though he does not always express it reasonably.

Paul really likes to sleep. He’s one of those people for whom nine hours is fifteen minutes shy of adequate. On more than one occasion I have caught him looking, with a downright wistful countenance, at me lying in the bed. I have been quickly humbled when I realize that it’s not me after which he longs, but the horizontal surface on which I lie. Paul sings in the choir every Sunday morning in the early service — we need to be in our car driving toward the church by 7:45 am for him to be marginally on time for the choir run-through, which begins at 8:00 am. So, up by 7:00 am. So, preferably for him, lights out by 10:00 pm the night before. The Saturdays in which we have lights out by 10:00 pm are, well, non-existent.

(Set up complete; moving to the present situation.)

Spring in Mississippi, when we all suspect that God loves us better than He loves everyone else, is almost over. Everything is still that new green that propels us toward true hope for a new Eden, but the cool evenings are dwindling. My Mama lives on a lake thirty minutes north of us. These two facts — spring winding down and the lake — conspired to have us hosting a supper at her house this weekend. I cooked a number of things, including a perfect pie, and Paul and I packed it all up and drove to the lake. We had supper with delightful folks, cruised on the water, enjoyed our margaritas, and then we helped Mama clean up, packed up said food, and drove home. This was all on a Saturday night of course.

At 11:57 p.m., we drove into our driveway. Paul took the two loads worth of dishes and food inside and put it all on the counter. The leftovers needed refrigeration. He checked on the pets and the children, while I began getting the food dealt with. I got out our shatter-proof pyrex storage thing-a-majigs. The leftovers required three. And cleverly I balanced the biggest one on top of the smallest one. At 12:08 am, as I grabbed the third container out of the drawer (not setting down the other two first, which would be obviously a waste of time), the biggest pyrex container fell to the floor, shattering into four hundred and fifty seven pieces of various sizes.

Paul said not a word. He walked into the kitchen with a broom in hand and began sweeping; his first words were kind exhortations about being careful not to cut my bare feet.
It gets worse. And in the face of that, it also gets better.

At 12:26 am, I poured myself a glass of sweetened ice tea delicately favored with the fresh green mint of Mississippi spring, walked to the bedroom, and set it down on my bedside table. Because my physical incompetence extends even to remembering that I am about to brush my teeth and collapse, so now is not the time for sweet tea.

At 12:32 am, we got in the bed. Paul turned off his lamp. I turned off my lamp. He squeezed my thigh and recited his I love you that is as precious as it is perfunctory. I realized my glasses were on my face. Like they are every night after I turn off the lamp. I took them off and reached over in the dark to my bedside table to set them down. And knocked over the tea.

Paul turned his lamp on, got up out of the bed, muttered a bit, walked around to my side and started removing items from my bedside table and joined me in mopping up sticky liquid.

At 12:46 am, he went to sleep. At 8:00 am, we pulled up at church for the choir run-through before the early service.

The grace offered to me by my husband in thirty short minutes in the wee hours of the Sabbath this weekend was nothing short of the grace offered to the woman at the well. And I almost missed it. Because though it wasn’t all the super heroes in one big movie, it was miraculous all the same. It was one broken man who always yells when things break — a man who has been known to be angry at me for having strep throat — that same man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, successfully killing his own sin for thirty short minutes. Because, by that same power, Paul is willing to go and die, as Christ bids him.

My Paul is himself a recipient of the work done on Calvary, and he is no longer a slave to his sin. I have been the dramatic, public prodigal before, and I received grace upon grace from God and His broken people. And my sweet husband has nursed me through crushing physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments for a long time now — and I him. We have suffered together those things which will drive anyone to their knees — much harder things than my besetting, comparatively small sin of a complete lack of physical care. But one of the most extraordinary moments of grace I have been given by human hands came to me in the form of a husband fighting not to yell at his completely absurd wife who is plenty old enough and otherwise competent enough not to spill eleven ounces of sweet tea everywhere at 12:32 am, twenty four minutes after she has shattered a shatterproof dish.

I want to yell at me. Everyone does. But Paul most of all. And he didn’t.

Paul’s grace, enabled only by God’s grace to him, is extraordinary because of its plainness. And it is worth whatever it takes not to miss it. Chesterton is right, because sinners living under one roof is ordinary and absurdly extraordinary. The extension of grace to the one who sins big makes a really great story — and thanks be, because it’s a story in which I have too often been a lead character. But, this life is long and full of the days that are easily forgotten. These plain days form us. Ordinary kindnesses are our manna — perfect food from a perfect God — appearing every morning. And like His mercies, they are ever new.

At 1:03 am, a wave of gratitude hit me, and I almost woke Paul up to tell him how incredibly he had loved me in his silent sweeping up. But instead I let him sleep.

Victories are found around every corner.