At home, my husband Joel and I have been trying to actively teach one of my daughters what it means to be grateful. There is usually part of each day that involves her inquiring about what exciting thing we will be doing that day or what treats she will be having, followed by a lot of huffiness if the answer is not to her liking. To be fair, we as a family do try to enjoy each other’s company and daddy’s time off by going on what we call family dates. They most often aren’t elaborate. We end up sitting in coffee shops a lot to color or playing at the mall play place for free. However, we do this about once a week, so they have come to look forward to it and expect it. So on the other six days when my daughter’s questions are met with the ordinary happenings planned for the day she has taken to big sighs and saying, “Is that all?”
I hear you, baby. I can commiserate with the child, having asked this question in life more than a few times myself. Is it an issue with gratitude? Sure. Sometimes. However, I think something I am struck by that goes deeper than that is our view of the ordinary and mundane. I can think of big times in my life where my sighs before God of “Is that all?” were just as dramatic as my preschooler’s. When I came home from college and it took a while to find a job, only to end up working at a restaurant for some time to pay the loans that were coming up for repayment, I asked the question, “Is this it? I thought there would be something more exciting awaiting me in this transition.” I am a stay at home mom, and after having my second daughter my husband worked a lot. She was a few months old, my oldest daughter was only a year and a half and it was winter. I was at home feeling lonely while trying to figure out how to juggle two under two years old. There were times during that season that I was confronted by the challenges and ordinariness of my long days, and I asked the same question.
In my questioning I have come to realize as I have unpacked those seasons and similar more recent ones that there has been a recurring theme. My asking, “Is this all?” or wondering, “That’s it?” stems from a working view that life is a big exciting adventure and I am missing out, or everyone else is doing big things for God and I’m not. Life happens “out there somewhere” and there must be something I’m missing if I am only experiencing the mundane. God is out there, and I am here cleaning boogies. Right? Wrong!
God is in the mundane! He is alive and moving and just as much a part of my wiping noses as He is with those doing formal ministry. He is not absent but He “…gently leads those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). He does not view children as a hindrance to His “greater work” but says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). He doesn’t need me to make big, showy sacrifices or assume that He wants me to be doing more than what He asks. Samuel rebukes Saul for that very thing because he disobeyed the Lord, trying to do for Him what wasn’t required. Samuel replies, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:22) Yikes.
There is something about God’s presence in the mundane and ordinary that feels mysterious because there is a sense that though He is there to draw close, it can be easy for us to miss or overlook Him. We serve a dynamic God who is equally gentle as He is powerful. He whispers to Elijah on Mt. Horeb after an earthquake, wind and fire preceded him (1 Kings 19:11-13). He is also a God who shows big and glorious manifestations of His presence for all to see, as well as hidden ones to individuals. He appeared to Mary to tell her she would have God’s son. He took what might have been an ordinary point of her day and made it holy with His presence.
All is for His glory. The presence of Jesus, Emmanuel, has made the mundane sacred, and by that awareness I am changed. There are exciting and miraculous things happening right in front of me. I am not missing out. In this week before Christmas may we be reminded of the nearness of God and have eyes to see His work in the bustle and busy, in stillness and quiet, in work and rest because He is as close as the reach of our hand.