Copyright adactio (see this link for flickr account)
I don’t write very consistently here, because I just don’t have much to say. Some days my life seems to be oozing with repetition and simplicity. There’s nothing special or unique about many days of my life.
I rarely see the significance in cleaning the house, making zucchini bread, hanging out with people, doing laundry, buying groceries, making phone calls, responding to e-mails, grading papers, and hosting friends and family at our house. It is even harder when I am repeating these tasks for the sixth time in one week. (Mothers out there, I know I have a lot to learn about enduring and repeating tasks over and over. I admire you for that.)
A part of me has bought into the lie that small, everyday things don’t matter very much. Instead I’m tempted to believe that what really counts are those monumental experiences with God that take your breath away—moments when you really “feel” like you are making a difference, or days when you have a “light bulb” epiphany and everything is brought into bright, wonderful clarity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for goosebump experiences, sacrificial service, and putting new ideas together for the first time. These are all joyful occasions and they have their place in life, but if I’m honest most days are pretty normal, typical, even mundane.
I’ve always had a hard time reconciling everyday activities with a life of following Jesus. Doing laundry doesn’t feel spiritual, and neither does making pesto. Most days, teaching students who don’t want to learn doesn’t feel very spiritual either. And I’ve certainly heard many mothers say there isn’t anything amazing about changing diapers, wiping noses, and bathing children.
So how do we honor God by doing everyday things?
God calls us to honor him in all things and to do all things for His glory. My husband consistently encourages me to do all things for the glory of God and to do my work as “unto the Lord.” Normally, I agree with him. Although—if I’m honest—I’ve never really understood how to do this or what it should look like on a day-to-day basis.
A few weeks ago, I had a hard day. When I say I had a hard day, it wasn’t because I was sick, or we were in a financial crisis, or I just received bad news. In reality, we were having people over (as we do every week), and I was having a hard time joyfully getting things ready while preparing my home to host. I found out that day that most of the regulars were sick, out-of-town, or having other company over, so there would be significantly fewer people at our house than normal. For my own selfish reasons, the fewer people that were coming seemed to directly impact the difficulty of the work.
I asked Doug in desperation, “How do I work or serve for the glory of God?”
What I meant was, “How can God make serving easier, so I can like it more?”
And I also meant, “Why does serving feel hard sometimes, surely spiritual things are supposed to feel easy?”
And I also meant, “How does me doing dishes for the third time today really bless God at all?”
Instead of complaining, what I needed to be reminded of was how Christ’s life is an example to me in all of this, how he shows me that genuine service often comes with great sacrifice.
Christ lived his life for thirty years before he began his earthly ministry. He learned a trade. He probably did chores, and helped his mother and brothers and sisters. He was a carpenter and worked hard with his hands. He ate with people. He gave people food when they were hungry. (He helped one couple with a wine shortage at their wedding!) He rested. His spent every day for three years with his followers, talking with them, walking with them, fishing with them, and even washing their feet (which were disgusting I’m sure).
Jesus did many awe-inspiring miracles, but most of his life was spent doing strikingly commonplace things. Many times he was so commonplace that Jews doubted that he could be a king at all. “Surely a carpenter, who hangs out with fisherman, rides a donkey and talks with people who are unlovely couldn’t be the one who will save the whole world,” they protested.
I feel the same way the Jews did. I am constantly protesting to God: “Surely a woman who washes clothes, cooks meals, and hangs out with her friends can’t have any real impact on the world. God, I want to do incredible things, real things, impactful things.”
When I think back on what has really shaped me, I can truly say that incredible things have changed my life.
My mom is an amazing mother I don’t remember the vacations or the Christmas gifts as much as I remember her being there, every day. I remember the detergent she used, and I remember how she got up early and stayed up late every day to keep our house in order. I remember her baking cookies weekly for our lunches. I remember her battling with my hair every day. I remember her cooking meals and going to the grocery store with us all the time. I remember her wearing clothes that weren’t new or were given to her so that we could have what we needed. I remember her praying with my dad daily for us. They sang songs to us every night and tucked us into bed.
My dad did incredible things as well. He worked driving a snowplow in the winter on top of his full-time job so that we could eat. When he finished working all night, when he was desperately tired, he came and played with us in the snow. He took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to work, even to restaurants with friends who wanted to meet for lunch—not because he preferred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but because he couldn’t afford to eat out. My dad made my lunch every day. He mowed the grass at our house. He made sure that things were taken care of.
I’m pretty sure while my mom was getting up early to iron clothes for Picture Day, or my dad was enduring snide comments from workers about his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, that those acts didn’t feel very amazing; they probably didn’t feel very impactful. But together all of these things made me feel loved and secure and have changed my life. They showed me what real, consistent, sacrifice was like.
I am so very, very shortsighted.
Real sacrifice is not best displayed in one day of feeding the homeless, or preaching to thousands of people (although these are very important things), but in a life filled with everyday activities that point to Jesus: wiping noses every day when no one can thank you for doing so, cleaning your house daily so you can invite others in, speaking the same kind word to a friend that you have known for years, not complaining when you have to do laundry for the fifth time in one day, working a job that isn’t glamorous but doing it well because you are working for God and not for the praise of others.
Jesus is a great model for this and I pray that I can emulate this in my life as well. Christ is honored by consistent, daily sacrifice, and although we may not feel that things are spiritual, they are in fact some of our most spiritual acts. God is using these small, simple tasks to work a great steadfastness, a great peace, and a deep-seated joy in our heart and in the hearts of others.
“[Serve] with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” (Ephesians 6:5-7)