The Sacred of the Ordinary
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“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
Whatever you do.
The truth is sometimes I really love “whatever I’m doing,” and sometimes I really hate it. Isn’t that life in every season? There are parts we relish, parts we tolerate, and parts we despise. Parts that make us laugh and parts that make us cry and parts that make the veins in our forehead pop out. And yet through all of it, God urges, “Whatever you do … do it in my name! Do it for my glory! Do it to serve Me.” Colossians 3 actually goes on to promise that we will receive a reward when we work with our whole hearts as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23–24).
Do you realize what that means? It means there is value in the most menial corners of our lives. It means we have purpose always. We have the opportunity to worship always. I meditated on these verses all day long as I scrubbed dishes and cleaned countertops. I thought about Jesus as I checked homework and brushed hair and swept floors and packed lunch boxes. And right around the time I was pulling that little lint trap out of the dryer, I felt it. Overwhelming gratitude.
I paused with a huge ball of lint in my fist, and I told God, “I don’t deserve to serve You. I don’t deserve to be part of Your work or to stand in Your presence and offer You any gift at all!” In my stale little laundry room, I felt the staggering weight of God’s generosity—that He would allow me to be part of His story, that He would redeem the most insignificant moments of my day, that He would stoop down to take a gift out of my dirty hands.
Standing in my laundry room, I realized that I serve a God so generous that He’s willing to make ordinary moments sacred. He’s willing to commune with me in the humdrum of everyday life. He’s willing to credit my faithful folding of underwear as service to Himself. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? It blows mine!
I wonder today, what is the “whatever” that you have to do? Is it menial chores, like me? Is it taking care of someone who is sick? Is it praying (again) for a child who is breaking your heart? Is it going to another day of work? …
Whatever you do ... you have the opportunity to worship Jesus today. So today, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24). Dear friend, it is the Lord Christ you are serving.—Jeanne Harrison1
See the invisible kingdom
I once heard of a man who split black ash and wove baskets. And he wove prayer through every basket. The man wore faded plaid and old denim and lived alone high up in the Appalachians where the dirt didn’t grow crops, but it could grow basket trees.
He lived such a distance up in the hills that he really didn’t think the profits from selling his baskets would exceed the cost of transportation to some Saturday morning market. Nevertheless, each day he cut trees and sawed them into logs and then pounded the logs with a mallet, to free all the splint ribbons from those trees. Splint slapped the floor.
And the basket-making man, he simply worked unhurried and unseen by the world, his eyes and heart fixed on things unseen.
“When the heart is at rest in Jesus—unseen, unheard by the world—the Spirit comes, and softly fills the believing soul, quickening all, renewing all within,” writes Robert Murray McCheyne.
Day after day, the man cut ash, pulled splint, stacked baskets. He said that as he held the damp splint and he braided—under and over, under and over—that God was simply teaching him to weave prayers into every basket, to fill the empty baskets, all the emptiness, with eternal, unseen things.
It was as if, under all the branches of those basket-growing trees, he knew what that clergyman James Aughey wrote, “As a weak limb grows stronger by exercise, so will your faith be strengthened by the very efforts you make in stretching it out toward things unseen.” …
It doesn’t matter so much what we leave unaccomplished—but that our priority was things unseen. … “Pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret …” (Matthew 6:6). The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
It’s the things unseen that are the most important things. … When the heart and mind focus on things unseen, that’s when there’s a visible change in us. The outward and the visible only become like Christ to the extent we focus on the unseen and invisible Person of Christ.
It is precisely what John Calvin implored: “We must make the invisible kingdom visible in our midst.”— Ann Voskamp2
When an extraordinary God comes to an ordinary world
For many years, I’ve failed to recognize the gravity of [the Christmas] story. … Even when I stop to read the Christmas story, I fail to let the eternal significance of these powerful words sink in. In one sentence, this is what Christmas means:
Our extraordinary God came down to this ordinary world to dwell among us.
Our God cared enough to enter into this broken world in the most vulnerable state and walk through each of the developmental years just like we did. All throughout His life, Jesus made Himself obedient to God’s plan, even to the cross. What a remarkable God we serve!
If you struggle to find God in the ordinary of your life (I’m right there with you; it’s not always easy!), remember that He came down to the ordinary so that you could one day be lifted up to His extraordinary home in heaven.—Mikayla Briggs3
God at work in the ordinary
The British writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote a series of short stories about a parish priest, Father Brown, with a knack for forensics. This lowly priest investigated criminal cases while maintaining compassion and understanding toward the guilty. Father Brown also prays for unjust situations to be found out. The local chief inspector resents the priest’s intruding into his investigations, but while Father Brown bows out of taking any credit for solving the mysteries, he repeatedly proves himself indispensable.
In the series, Father Brown is depicted as making the most of one’s humble station in life and being content and useful there. He doesn’t own a car, but he often wears a smile while riding his bicycle. If others insult him, he’s hardly moved and will often reply with a simple compliment for the other person or point out something that they can together be grateful for. He just keeps moving forward with what he believes he should do each day.
God made each of us with a specific place and purpose in mind. Perhaps we could find deeper fulfillment in our station in life if we could learn to make the most of our position by equipping ourselves to do our best, wherever we find ourselves in life’s journey.
There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be good at what we do and receiving recognition for it, but we can become disheartened and discontent if we belittle our own place in life and long for a seemingly more preeminent position. Certainly there are many individuals who excel in positions of great usefulness or prominence. But most of us fill a place in life that would be considered more common and ordinary.
Peer pressure, this world’s culture, and the human mind can often work together to cause us to belittle our place and position when it is a seemingly more ordinary and common one. But no place or position is really common or ordinary if it is the place and position God meant us to have, and where He meant for us to serve Him and others.
Our place in life may not be one with lucrative income nor a position in the limelight, but it becomes a very special place and one of deep fulfillment when we put the principal values in first place—loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29–31). Wherever He has us placed in this world, and for whatever length of time or purpose, we can be His salt and light to the world. That is what Father Brown did.—William B. McGrath
Published on Anchor November 2023. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
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