John Stonestreet – What do an M&M factory in Virginia, a boardroom on Madison Avenue, the slave ship of John Newton, a U2 concert, and a cattle auction in Colorado have in common? Well, of course, each one is part of the “every square inch” over which Christ claims sovereignty, but each is also a subject of reflection in a tremendous new book by one of the wise and trusted sages in my life, Dr. Steven Garber.
His new book, “The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work,“ is now yet another piece of Steve’s writing to mentor and challenge my thinking. His first book, “The Fabric of Faithfulness” is an essential resource for anyone involved in education as a Christian. And even if you are not, his description of the Christian worldview in that book is easily among the best I know of.
This soft-spoken Regent College professor will tell you that his life and writing and thinking and leading have all been part of his exploration of what it means to live all life under Christ’s lordship; all of it, even in the most ordinary of places and relationships and professions.
In “The Seamless Life,” Garber explores how to live a life that is connected, not disconnected. Throughout the book Steve weaves in and out of an amazing array of illustrations—of people he’s met, both in person and in history, of movies and plays and songs and works of art, of honest cowboys and prayerful candy executives. And each short chapter begins with a photograph, most of them taken by Steve’s own hand, of the places or people he’s writing about.
In one of my favorite chapters, Steve shares memories of the grandparents he spent his summers with as a boy in Cortez, Colorado. He knew they took their Scottish Presbyterian faith quite seriously by witnessing and participating in their nightly liturgy of kneeling together for prayer. But, when Steve witnessed an auctioneer asking his grandfather the market price of a particular cow, and taking him at his word without hesitation, Steve knew his grandfather lived a Seamless Life, in which being a cattleman was fully integrated with being a Christian man.
The book’s diverse and beautiful collage of insights, with its intellectually and theological rich devotional passages, are united by a single idea: Our work, in whatever corner of the world God has placed us, has a sacred quality. What we do for the good of our city or our company or our family or our neighbor is a tangible and real part of God’s project of making all things new. As the title of Steve’s book suggests, the transition from worship to work should be seamless.
Of course, we face incredible challenges to this task on this side of the garden. Our world is broken, and it’s hard to live out the “already” of the Gospel bombarded and sometimes even crushed by the “not yet” of the Fall. And that’s where Steve introduces one of his favorite words, one he uses so often his students sometimes make fun of him for it: “proximate.”
The dictionary defines proximate as that which is “closest in relationship,” or “immediate.” What Steve means by proximate is though we can’t fix the whole world by ourselves, that’s okay. We’re not called to do everything, certainly not those things that only God can do. But, we are called, as Christ modeled in His earthly ministry, to do “something that is right and good and true and just” here and now, where we’ve been placed; to help the people within our reach, to feed the hungry within our sight, to speak life to whomever we happen to meet at the well, and sometimes just to haul in a netful of fish and give God the glory.
In other words, we’re called to do the things we can do, not the things we can’t.
As Steve observes, “None of us can care for everything everywhere. So, we choose to care about something somewhere.” And, as the chapters progress, dealing with great works of literature and mundane parts of life and the world, it becomes clear that this caring is sacred. It is, in fact, the essence of a seamless life: to “ora et labora,” or “pray and work” whether our jobs are “agricultural or academic, whether we are plumbers or carpenters, whether our labor is the law or the marketplace, whether our days take us into hospitals or schools.
Steve’s book is available here: