It’s been a delightfully ordinary day so far. Walmart trip – check. Grocery store – been there. Bank – did that. Laundry – in progress (always in progress, right?). Unloading dishwashing – done.
Ordinarily I don’t find such delight in ordinary tasks, but I’ve been challenged to adopt a new perspective. I bet it happens to you too – when God makes the same messages to coincide, and you know it’s not a coincidence (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true!).
Yesterday, our pastor taught us about the steadfastness of Joseph as he waited (and waited some more) in prison (Genesis 40 – 41). Joseph could have become bitter about the injustice of his situation except that he trusted that a trustworthy God was directing his story. Could there be anything more mundane than an ancient prison cell day after day, year after year? And yet, as our pastor said, Joseph remained true to the hope that God could transform the mundane into the miraculous.
After church, I came home to catch up on my “Gideon” study. Here’s what I read:
“Today’s tasks, even the most mundane of them – are often preparation for tomorrow’s calling.” (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon, pg. 47).
Gideon was threshing wheat when the angel of the Lord appeared. He wasn’t looking for a divine encounter. He wasn’t hold up a banner that read “Here I am – Send me!” Gideon was just doing his thing. And as Priscilla Shirer writes, “The mundane, the routine, the commonplace – these are often the contexts in which God will reveal Himself to humanity” (pg. 42).
I think of Moses’ calling in Exodus 3:
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush….”
And the calling of David in 1 Samuel 16:
“Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’
‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’
Samuel said, ‘Send for him….’
Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’”
Consider that Jesus called Peter, James and John while they were in their boats: “‘… from now on you will fish for people,’ He said. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5: 10 – 11).
And the calling of Matthew seems about as unexceptional as it gets: “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him.”
Gideon was farming, Joseph was jailed, Moses and David were tending sheep, and the disciples were doing their daily tasks when the miraculous movement of God interrupted their monotony.
“Ordinary is often the disguise of the divine.” *
God calls you and me to be faithful with the assignments that He’s entrusted to us. For me, in this season of life, that requires ordinary things like laundry and grocery shopping. For you, perhaps, the season of life that you’re in requires you to display perseverance with integrity in your workplace day after day. And we’re waiting. Waiting for the ordinary to evolve into the extraordinary. Waiting for a call to reach into the commonplace.
But – here, HERE is the place where simple is sacred. As Priscilla Shirer says, the mere fact that Gideon had wheat to thresh (or Moses had a flock to shepherd, or Peter had a boat) is evidence of God’s blessing. What did Joseph have in jail? Not much, except a dream. And the gift of faith. God’s presence gave him patience and perspective.
HERE is the season of life in which I must remember, and say “thank You,” and worship.
The load of laundry? That’s evidence that we have ample clothing.
The full dishwasher? That’s proof that a meal was prepared and enjoyed last night.
It’s ordinary. And it’s divine. I choose to see God here. Maybe one day He will call me to something more than life as I know it now. Or maybe that’s not His plan. He has a purpose, and it’s sufficient. It’s good. It’s worthy of my praise and my faithfulness.
I think of Brother Lawrence who became well known for his faithful attention to God’s presence in the midst of any activity. Brother Lawrence didn’t compartmentalize his awareness of God’s presence to just “spiritual” endeavors. He practiced God’s presence as he washed dishes. His highest calling was to worship. And that calling brought delight into his duties.
“We can do little things for God,” said Brother Lawrence. “I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”
Today I’ll set my mind on the grace of grocery shopping, the delight of doing dishes, and the worship opportunities in the midst of work. These tasks give me the opportunity for today’s praise and tomorrow’s preparation.
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
* Gideon, pg. 42
Conversations with Brother Lawrence is written by Larry Slater. http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Brother-Lawrence-Larry-Slater/dp/1467905062