Do You Want a Revolution? Start With the Dishes

What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily everydayness of life.

Caring for a homeless kid is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning or calling my mother back when I don’t feel like it.

Soon after college, one of my best friends who is brilliant and brave and godly had a nervous breakdown.

He was passionate about the poor and wanted to change at least a little bit of the world. He was trained as an educator and intentionally went to one of the poorest, most crime-ridden schools in our state and worked every day trying to make a difference in the lives of students who had been failed by nearly everyone and everything—from their parents to the educational system.

After his “episode,” he had to go back to his hometown and live a small, ordinary life as he recovered, working as a waiter, living in an upper-middle class neighborhood. When he’d landed back home, weary and discouraged, we talked about what had gone wrong.

We had gone to a top college where people achieved big things. They wrote books and started nonprofits. We were told again and again that we’d be world-changers. We were part of a young, Christian movement that encouraged us to live bold, meaningful lives of discipleship, which baptized this world-changing impetus as the way to really follow after Jesus.

We were challenged to impact and serve the world in radical ways, but we never learned how to be an average person living an average life in a beautiful way.

A prominent New Monasticism community house had a sign on the wall that famously read, “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.”

My life is really rich in dirty dishes (and diapers) these days and really short in revolutions. I go to a church full of older people who live pretty normal, middle-class lives in nice, middle-class houses.

But I have really come to appreciate this community, to see their lifetimes of sturdy faithfulness to Jesus, their commitment to prayer, and the tangible, beautiful generosity that they show those around them in unnoticed, unimpressive, unmarketable, unrevolutionary ways. And each week, we average sinners and boring saints gather around ordinary bread and wine and Christ himself is there with us.

And here is the embarrassing truth: I still believe in and long for a revolution.

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Tish Warren
Tish Harrison Warren is a transitional deacon in the Anglican Church in North America. She and her husband work with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries at The University of Texas at Austin and have two young daughters. She writes for The Well, InterVarsity's online magazine for women. She’s also written for Christianity Today’s her.meneutics and was featured on the White Horse Inn. She's newly on twitter @Tish_H_Warren.