One weekend in the mid-1990s, I found myself in the Hoosierdome in Indianapolis. The arena was filled with thousands of other men, all there to attend a Promise Keepers conference. The speakers were national names, and their talks were incredible. The entertainment was just as incredible – I can vividly recall walking to the stage during lunchtime, and Steven Curtis Chapman doing an impromptu jam for the 200 or so us who were milling around in front of the stage while everyone else was at lunch.
The memory that has stuck the most was the singing of a hymn, with thousands of male voices singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” And singing it a capella. It was the summit of a mountaintop experience.
While it was thrilling and inspirational, the conference was utterly unlike daily life. Mountaintop experiences are like that – they bear no resemblance to the everyday experience of living. And that’s part of the idea of conferences anyway, to pull you out of the everyday, inspire and motivate and often change you, so that you go back to the everyday with a fresh outlook, a deeper understanding and a renewed commitment.
But faith is not lived out on mountaintops. Faith is lived out in the valleys and the plains. Faith is lived out in small acts, small doses. It’s not lived out in the company of thousands of other men, but in the immediate family, the workplace, the neighborhood and the church. Faith rarely happens in the big things, because the big things tend to overwhelm all other considerations. Even the singing of that hymn in the Hoosierdome (now called the RCA Dome), as emotional as it was, was less about faith that something that came from faith.
Our faith is lived out in small acts, small acts of grace.
Fixing supper for a family dealing with illness or tragedy.
A kind word to a co-worker who’s depressed.
A thank-you note for your church organist.
Giving your Sunday School teacher a hug.
Standing firm against oppression.
Holding one another accountable.
Giving to a charity or to the poor, not because it’s a tax deduction, but because your faith is spilling over from your heart.
Showing up for at 7 a.m. on a Saturday for the church’s work day.
Creating a home that your children know is a safe place.
Loving your children when they are at their most unlovable (consider who did that for you).
Biting your tongue before an unkind word is uttered.
Being there, not necessarily saying anything, when a friend loses a spouse. And being there three months later when they’re feeling their most alone.
Using the gifts and talents you’ve been given to help someone else.
Spending time on your knees.
Salting the workplace with an example of godly behavior, and doing it without telling anybody.
Small things. Small acts of faith, faith that is lived and breathed. Small acts of grace. We live our faith in the places we live.
We don’t live on mountaintops.