This article is about embracing the present. Pastor Ryan wrote an article helping us think about preparing for the future here…
I recently took a personality test in a moment of weakness and I saved one of the quotes because it was so funny and true. “Your natural good humor may deteriorate into sarcasm or biting wit that masks your anger at others for raining on your parade”. Well let me tell you, COVID-19 has rained on my parade and I’m sarcastic and annoyed. I think a big part of that for me has been facing the mundane in my life and being discontent. Quarantine will do that to you I guess. I did a video on this in our “Sanity Checks” for those of you who don’t like reading, but below are some of my thoughts on seizing the moment and embracing the mundane.
The mundane drives us crazy right? But why? I have three thoughts on why we hate it, but before I get there I think this needs to be said. God is in the mundane and simple things. We learned this in both the past Abide Bible Study in 1 Samuel 9 and a recent sermon on 1 Kings 19. God is both sovereign over the mundane, and also meets us there because that’s real life, and God works in real life. Think of Elijah on Mt. Horeb where God met him in the still small voice, not the fire, earthquake, or wind. Think about Jesus’ 30 years of life we don’t even have documented. He did simple, daily tasks that were necessary for life. He lived in relative obscurity for 30 years as the Second Person of the Trinity! If normal life is good enough for the Jesus then it’s probably good enough for us. The incarnation validates mundane daily things as not only necessary, but God ordained and even acts of worship. As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
No More Overstimulation
Why do we hate the mundane? Because it destroys our status quo of overstimulation. In quarantine especially, there may be less to stimulate us and keep us busy. Since there is less to stimulate us now, what do we do? Take your phone for example, do you spend more time on it now? What’s your smartphone doing to you? Is it cultivating your heart to daily be entertained, informed, stimulated, and virtually connected, especially if it’s the first thing you look at. If that’s what we go to, then our normal and much more real lives will feel frustrating. Here’s the deal, we can only really live our real life. All we have is today, so make the most of it in the repetitive and mundane! In doing so we can start learning to love, listen, and pay attention to those around us and ultimately to God.
Personal overstimulation can make us hate the mundane, but think of what overstimulation may have done to our relationships. Before quarantine, were we just satisfied with volume and not depth? Did we deceive ourselves that we were actually connected because of the massive amount of people we shook hands with? Is our desire to get back to church just so that we can not feel disconnected because we just said “Hi” to 50 people and “fellowshipped?”. Tough thought, but if you’re feeling disconnected then maybe it says something about how your relationships were beforehand. Yes digital relationships are a real challenge but if they haven’t made it through the fire of coronavirus, how strong were they? Maybe we need to take this time to slowly and intentionally strengthen a few relationships that are vital to our spiritual health.
No More Fantasy World
Second, we hate the mundane because we have to accept reality. It makes us slow down and really see how our lives are beneath the facade of busyness. Again, reality is all we really have. Taking trash out, loading dishwashers, answering kids that ask the same questions, brushing your teeth, showering, (hopefully), are all actions that fill our lives with repetition. Much of our Christian life is the same way. We should find ourselves returning over and over to the same habits and the same work to worship God. We have the same sin struggles, and our work of repentance and response in faith is daily and repetitive. That’s exactly where God meets us! God accepts us and meets us where we are, not where we want to be. Dallas Willard is famous for saying, “God has yet to bless anyone except where they are.” Maybe we can learn to embrace our reality, become more present to it, and actually learn what it looks like to glorify God where we’re at.
No More “Usefulness Idolatry”
Third, we are too utilitarian in our thinking. “If I’m not being useful and doing stuff I’m worthless” you may say to yourself. We often run to our effectiveness or accomplishments as idols to give us meaning. This keeps us from embracing the moment and acting now for God’s kingdom and God’s glory! If God is sovereign over this craziness, then there is something he wants to do in us at this time by turning our world upside-down. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “do we just want to get back to normal so we feel better about ourselves and our perceived mission?” Maybe our idea of mission was wrong? Maybe our idea of effectiveness was wrong? Maybe our idea of obedience was wrong?
God is interested in forming us now, so what’s that going to look like for you? What is he trying to teach you? What is he wanting you to appreciate more? Of course, we can resist God’s work now through our wishful thinking about the future when we can “be really effective” again. Mundane isolation can be exposing. It can expose what our real expectations on reality were, it can show how much we’ve been trying to escape reality instead of embrace it, and it can show how performance driven we’ve been. Instead of fighting our circumstances and being angry about the mundane, let’s embrace the moment together because it’s all we have. As Gandalf said to Frodo when he was discouraged about his difficult situation, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Let’s present all of our being as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God by the work of Christ, so that this may be our reasonable, daily and habitual act of worship. May we submissively rest in his sovereignty and creatively work for his glory now.