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Looking Behind the Veil of Ordinariness

In his book Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson tells the story of a woman named Judith, an artist in textiles. He writes:

Judith had an alcoholic husband and a drug-addicted son. She kept her life and her family together for years by attending twelve-step meetings. One Sunday, when she was about forty years old at the time, she entered the church where I was the pastor. She came at the invitation of some friends she knew from her meetings—"You need to come to church. I'll meet you there." She had never been to church before. She knew nothing about church …. She was well read in poetry and politics and psychology, and knew a great deal of art and artists. But she had never read the Bible ….
Something, though, caught her attention when she entered this church, and she continued to come. In a few months she became a Christian and I became her pastor. I loved observing and listening to her. Everything was new: Scriptures, worship, prayer, baptism, Eucharist—church! … [She was so excited]: "Where have I been all my life? These are incredible stories—why didn't anyone tell me these? How come this has been going on all around me and I never knew it!" …

Peterson says that when he moved across the country, he kept in touch with Judith through letters. In his book Peterson shares a portion of one of her letters:

Dear Pastor: Among my artist friends I feel so defensive about my life—I mean about going to church. They have no idea of what I am doing and act bewildered. So I try to be unobtrusive about it. But as my church life takes on more and more importance—it is essential now to my survival—it is hard to shield it from my friends. I feel protective of it, not wanting it to be dismissed or minimized or trivialized. It is like I am trying to protect it from profanation or sacrilege. But it is strong. It is increasingly difficult to keep it quiet. It is not as if I am ashamed or embarrassed—I just don't want it belittled.
A long-time secular friend, and a superb artist, just the other day was appalled: "What is this I hear about you going to church?" Another found out that I was going on a three-week mission trip to Haiti and was incredulous: "You, Judith, you going to Haiti with a church group! What has gotten into you?" I don't feel strong enough to defend my actions. My friends would accept me far more readily if they found that I was in some bizarre cult involving exotic and strange activities like black magic or experiments with levitation. But going to church branded me with a terrible ordinariness.
But that is what endears it to me, both the church and the twelve-step programs, this façade of ordinariness. When you pull back the veil of ordinariness, you find the most extraordinary life behind it.

What a vivid picture of how the gospel is foolishness to the world! Church life looks so ordinary to others, but there is an astonishing life behind that commonplace façade!

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