The Genius and the Mundane

“But his real genius was in making genius transferable.  Jesus awakens the genius in everyone and anyone who would trust in His guidance and walk in his steps.” – The Genius of Jesus, Chapter 1

It’s summer of 1953 and Mrs. Johnson is preparing lunch for her children.  It’s a simple lunch of cold sandwiches, but it’s what a teaching salary of $100 a month could provide.  She stares out the window, knowing as she sets the table that she is capable of much more.  The summers bore her.  Teaching provides some stimulation, but she can’t help but feel a bit like she is a grape withering on the vine as her gifts go to waste. 

Still, her love for her children is paramount.  She gathers them inside.  The importance of keeping them safe and fed cannot be overstated.  And soon, she will find an opportunity that affords her more than a better salary, but a place in history.  Katherine Johnson, as depicted in the 2017 film, Hidden Figures, worked as one of NASA’s human computers, and the integral safety checkpoint for astronaut John Glenn. 

So is she a mathematical genius?  Or a mother cutting crusts off of sandwiches?  Of course, she is both.  Does her passion for math and physics diminish her love for her kids.  Of course not.  In Erwin McManus’s book, ‘The Genius of Jesus’, there is an invitation to tap into the brilliance of Jesus in unlocking our own potential.  As he states, the genius of Jesus is transferable – if we live the way He lived, we will uplift those around us. 

But it’s important to remember that even Jesus himself had days of rather repetitive carpentry.  As far as I know, his wooden creations were mostly for function and were not on display for their novelty or beauty.  He had to get up, shower, go to work, be sick, care for others, eat and sleep just like the rest of us.  As lucky as we sometimes are to be visited by a muse or genius of sorts, (and we should take advantage when this happens) we must remember that much of our time is consumed by the humble tasks of daily life.  And that’s OK.  That’s how God designed it.   

Productive genius requires the luxury of focus.  But oftentimes, or in certain seasons, a lot of energy has to be spent in maintenance and caregiving.  Life is not the nonstop highlight reel social media wants to pretend it is.  Life involves a lot of boring, daily, necessary things.  Sitting in waiting rooms, standing in line, changing diapers and waiting to fall asleep.  The beauty is that there are moments of clarity and genius infused in the ordinary too.  Some of the most encouraging words my family has ever spoken to me were said “off the cuff” just going about our day together, and yet they’ve stayed with me forever.   

There is sometimes a genius that no one will see and few will even perceive.  It is in knowing the needs of a baby who can’t yet communicate with you.  In sensing the feelings of the outsider and taking the time to invite them in.  In knowing that perhaps the wisest thing to say at the time, is nothing at all.  In knowing the value of just sitting with the hurting and letting them know they’re not alone. 

So above all, don’t lose heart or feel you are falling behind.  When there are flashes of brilliance, shine for all the world to see.  But remember that when we serve, we are first in His kingdom. 

[This is a guest post written by Rebekah Arias for Grace Church’s 2022 summer reading program: The Genius of Jesus by Erwin Raphael McManus]

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