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Ordinary Faithfulness (Even in Middle Age) Is Extraordinary

I used to be a tough college athlete, but recently I injured my index finger scrolling on the wheel of my mouse. This isn’t what I imagined being an adult would be like. Life comes at you fast. And it doesn’t always live up to our expectations.

In Just Show Up: How Small Acts of Faithfulness Change Everything (A Guide for Exhausted Christians), Drew Dyck writes about the goodness of ordinary faithfulness.

The book could be described as an exposition of Paul’s admonition to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). It’s encouragement for Christians to persevere in ordinary life when faithfulness doesn’t feel radical.

Dignity of Ordinary Faithfulness

We often conceive of faithfulness as doing big things for God. Dyck’s understanding changed when his wife asked him to list the people he most admired. He realized his list “didn’t contain one person who was powerful or famous” (15). Instead, they were people faithful in the crucible of ordinary life.

The book begins with what Dyck, an author and editor, calls a “midlife manifesto” (11). He contrasts the idyllic, world-changing dreams he had as a young man with his decidedly narrower life in middle age. Life is now about diapers, Zoom calls, “fancy dinners” at Olive Garden, a mortgage with a yard to mow, and time with his wife squeezed in among work, chores, and parenting.

This brief book’s dozen chapters explore what showing up looks like in different areas, such as encouraging in-person service to others, letting things slide when necessary, and remaining faithful in the face of doubts. Each chapter is concise, clearly written, and the right length for someone to read in the waiting room before an annual physical.

Small Truths We Need

Many of us get discouraged by what we could call “faithfulness envy,” which social media incubates. We don’t only want someone else’s life—whether their house or hair, their career achievements or washboard abs—but we envy the God-given callings other Christians have received. To borrow Paul’s metaphor, the foot feels pressure to be a hand and the ear feels shame for not being an eye. Just Show Up reminds us that “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor. 12:22).

The book repeatedly illustrates “just showing up” as being faithful to what God has put in front of you, not what God has put in front of others.

Be faithful to what God has put in front of you, not what God has put in front of others.

For example, Dyck tells us about his father, a man who struggled greatly in school, especially in seminary. It would have been easy for him to give up because the academic side of training for ministry came with difficulty compared to his peers. But he kept plodding. And because he did, he became a wonderful pastor. Dyck writes, “Every church he led—from the tiny rural congregation to a large, prestigious church in the city—flourished” (21).

In a world that celebrates heroic achievement and judges the weary and burned out, Just Show Up is a reminder that persistent faithfulness matters more than flash and talent.

Humorous Encouragement

Just Show Up is salted with Dyck’s humor. Much like his social media persona, this book is playful, family-oriented, and self-deprecating yet serious about Christ and full of love for the local church. Imagine if Jim Gaffigan were a thoughtful Protestant evangelical. For example, Dyck pokes fun at himself because a smelly homeless guy sits next to him in a coffee shop, and Dyck wonders how long he must sit there before he “can leave without hurting his feelings” (39).

But the book doesn’t merely entertain; it encourages. In the providence of God, Just Show Up showed up in my life at just the right time. While it’s often lighthearted, I frequently wanted to cry as I read it—the good kind of cry, the kind of cry by a father who’s about to send his oldest daughter away to college. The kind of cry when he knows he’s left much unsaid and undone and has little time left with her and yet all the while has so many other duties clamoring for his attention that he can hardly keep up with all the places he needs to be and the things he needs to do.

As I preach each week to a church full of ordinary and exhausted Christians, I remember I’m an ordinary and (sometimes) exhausted pastor. Our church just planted a church, which is great, but it took a ton of work to keep all the regular ministries going while preparing to send away a pastor and 50 people. Sometimes showing up takes a lot of willpower.

A cynic might argue that “just showing up” is a coping strategy for those of us who haven’t made it to elite status. I disagree. And so does the One who says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” to the man who earned two talents instead of five (Matt. 25:23).

Practical Application

In another era, church attendance might have been the act of faithfulness a Christian author could presume as he went on to write about other ways to serve Christ. But that day is long gone. For all the ways we can show up, I appreciate that Dyck gave a whole chapter to gathering in person with your local church, what Matt Smethurst calls “the ministry of attendance” (104).

A cynic might argue that ‘just showing up’ is a coping strategy for those of us who haven’t made it to elite status. I disagree.

As I think about my congregation, there’s a faithful fraction that participates in meaningful ways nearly every Sunday. These are the ones who seem to progress more steadily in their sanctification, find the most joy in the gospel, best weather seasons of suffering, and make the largest difference in their community because they just show up.

Dyck’s book doesn’t invent a new paradigm for ministry faithfulness. It doesn’t present any theological innovation. But it’s the sort of book that feeds the soul in a desert of discouragement.


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