The Glory of the Ordinary

I seldom bake my own bread these days. With two energetic boys to chase, a third little on on the way, and a husband working long (and I mean really long) resident hours I often feel accomplished if we’re able to smile at the end of the day.

But when I do take the time, to slow down and embark on the process I realize how much I’ve missed, how the chaos I keep feeling is birthed less from all I need to do, and more by how I look at doing it.

There is a certain rhythm in kneading bread, and with hands flexing and pulling suddenly I find my mind flexing and pulling on things I’ve been too “busy” to notice. I find subtleties in my own heart that I’ve missed, an attitude of self-reliance or pride niggling beneath things. I find sins to confess, I find questions to ask, and ultimately I find myself talking to the God I’ve been ignoring. The dough turns from sticky to elastic, binding together, yeast filling the air, and I contemplate Jesus’ words, “man cannot live on bread alone,” and “I am the bread of life”, and I sort of proverbially slap my own forehead as I realize I’ve been trying to spend my days without him, this life-giving-more-than-mere-bread God.

It’s really less about what we’re doing, and much more about how our hearts sit as we do them. That’s the gift of the quotidian, or mundane tasks, we often dread, if we allow them we tend to find something much bigger than an ordinary to-do of folding laundry, washing our bodies, or preparing food, if we pay attention anyway.

It’s interesting following Jesus’ life and seeing the moments he chose to say and do some of his most world-flipping truths and miracles, it was often in the simplicity of every day life; it was meals, and feet-washing, and traveling familiar dusty roads. We keep thinking God shows up in huge moments–and he does–but he shows up in the small and ordinary moments too. We just need to quiet our busyness enough to take notice of him.

But we keep looking for our time and tasks to “count” for something, to be quantifiable and measurable as accomplished and achieved. As Carolyn Weber so eloquently says,

Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely. The eternal cannot be insisted into a measurement.
-Holy is the Day

We trade so many eternal things because we are unwilling to exist fully and passionately in the moments we have been given. Including, and perhaps, especially, in the moments that are painfully ordinary.

Our busyness and to-do lists are often just a symptom of our need to affirm we’ve done something that matters. We think of ordinary tasks as just something to finish so we can get on to more “important work”, something we can stake our pride in; and in our never-ceasing need to be important we miss the One who gives us purpose in the first place. We miss all these opportunities to know him, to hear him, and to rest in him, ultimately because we are unwilling to trust him with our future.

I’m pretty certain that’s why he reminds us to look at wildflowers that have a splendor all their own, and to observe flighty sparrows, because we just need to remember that he owns tomorrow, he shows us what matters, he cares for us, and he just wants us to give him today.

And that’s the great challenge isn’t it? Being fully in today, right now, not skipping ahead to what we’d rather do, or think matters more. Just being fully present and letting God take the ordinary and turn it into something glorious, or the exhausting turned into something peaceful, that takes more faith than we can call up on our own, so I suppose it’s a good thing he gives us that too.

 

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