A few weeks ago I drove to church by way of Covered Bridge Road. Going over the bridge and past the mill, the sky was a brilliant fall blue, the gently rolling hills were soft green, and the corn was harvest brown. The whole quiet scene looked as I imagine it did 50, 60, or perhaps even 100 years ago. This made me think about the people who lived around these farms and fields over the years. I know the names of some of them – Brubakers, Hesses, Martins, and now Kings and Stoltzfuses. But most are unknown: ordinary people who got up in the morning, made breakfast, went out to work, attended church, and lived unremarkable lives, at least as far as the world is concerned.
No one writes history books about ordinary people. History, partly of necessity, focuses on the world changers, the people who make big visible changes in their lives and the lives of others. Most people reading these words have probably heard of Albert Einstein or Queen Victoria, but I’m guessing only one or two people know the names of the farm families who cared for the fields next to the church in 1900.
And yet, those families probably have more influence on our immediate world than Queen Victoria (I’m not sure about Einstein). Their quiet sense of duty, their faithfulness in the small everyday things ensured that the land is still here, still being cultivated, still productive and beautiful. Some of them attended this church: their faithfulness to God and to their families is almost certainly still being felt today, even if we don’t always recognize it.
Faithfulness. It’s not glamorous. It can even seem boring. In the listing of fruits of the Spirit, this trait is tucked quietly in the middle. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there are no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Faithfulness is often unappreciated until it’s gone.
The dictionary defines faithfulness as “adhering firmly or devotedly as to a person, cause, or idea; loyal.” It also means “responsible, dependable, reliable, consistent with truth, and full of faith.” When I hear the word “faithful” I tend to think of someone who believes devoutly in God and who tries to live up to the truth taught in the Bible. I also think of someone who is trustworthy, can be counted on, and who sticks it out when the going gets tough.
In one sense, faithfulness can be seen as the safety net that helps hold everything in place. Think about it: almost everything we eat, wear, drive and use is created and maintained by someone’s faithfulness in the small details. We drive on roads and over bridges with few second thoughts, because we trust that the engineers and construction workers were faithful to do their jobs correctly, even when they would have rather quit work early or slacked off on company time. We trust that food delivery truck drivers will be honest and on time, and that the grocery store employees will be faithful to stock shelves. Restaurant owners are assumed to be faithfully following food safety guidelines. Our safety depends on people adhering to rules of the road and following traffic signs.
Our families’ very existence often depends on our faithfulness in little tasks, especially when we have small children. Personally, I’m not always thrilled by the never ending laundry, dishes, cleaning, meal prep and yard work that mark this season of my life. And don’t get me started on helping with homework. It’s tempting to let things slide…to brush aside a child’s question, to let things at work or around the house stay undone (even when I would have time to do them), to scroll mindlessly through social media because, after all, nothing on my plate is world changing or urgent. Until suddenly the weakened net breaks, and my lack of faithfulness becomes apparent.
It’s so easy for me to think that what I do doesn’t matter very much. I’m a middle aged housewife who will probably never become the next Jen Hatmaker or Beth Moore. No one is going to be interviewing me about important world matters, or breathlessly asking me for parenting tips. Most days I sure don’t feel like a world changer. But perhaps I am.
After all, isn’t the world all around me? I can’t change the world very much in the abstract, but I can certainly change it for the person next to me. Most of the time that’s my spouse or children, but it could also be the grocery store clerk, a co-worker, or the friend who is going through a hard time. By being reliable, trustworthy and responsible to prepare a meal, ensure there are clean clothes, be a listening ear and show kindness wherever I can, I am helping to change (and hopefully improve!) the world, as represented in my family and neighbors. When possible, I want to extend my help and influence further, but at the very least I can be faithful with what God has placed before me right now.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…For he was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 12:8, 10).
“Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
Faithfulness is a radical call to be trustworthy followers of God and obedient to the responsibilities He gives us, whether large or small. As Weaver Reitz has been known to say, “Always leave a place better than you found it.” In doing this, we can indeed change the world.