Several years ago, I was chatting with a friend who was beside herself with excitement. Her boyfriend was flying them both to Christchurch for the day (from Auckland) for a whirlwind date to celebrate their anniversary—more accurately, six months.
At the time the whole thing sort of boggled me, because the relationships around me seemed to be always “spectacular”. In fact, a group of boys in my social circle had made it their personal mission to compete by planning the most fantastic dates possible. Flowers were sent, extravagant outings were undertaken, and all were posted online for the world to see.
I remember being struck by this impression that there was this discomfort with the ordinary—the everyday, nothing spectacular, run-of-the-mill, just-life-happening kind of ordinary. This made me think of how, when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I too was profoundly uncomfortable with the ordinary part of my Christian life.
This was after I’d spent two years serving as an intern in my church, when I no longer had chapel every morning or guest speakers coming every few weeks to impart wisdom. My prayer journal was no longer brimming with revelation after revelation of God’s plan for my life.
Instead, I was going to church once every Sunday and spending most days working a normal job, where I cleaned and laminated on the daily and was still expecting God to speak audibly (or at least with a neon sign) at every turn.
He’s not only here for the exciting moments
If you’re like me, somewhere in the haze of your everyday routine, you may feel that tug in your core that longs to encounter God the same way you would at the conferences, or stunningly produced worship services, or times of focused spiritual input and visiting ministers.
Yet God is in our run-of-the-mill everyday too. He waits every day, with the same eager desire to connect with us. The Bible reminds us many times of His constant love for us (e.g., John 3:16, Psalm 136:26, Romans 8:39), and it’s not something that’s present only when we “feel” Him.
I think of Rebekah, drawing water from the well—I can only imagine how many times she’d fetched water in that same way—only to meet the servant of Abraham who would invite her to become Isaac’s bride and part of God’s chosen family and nation.
David, whose father thought him inconsequential enough to leave behind in the field with the sheep while his brothers were showcased as candidates for the future king of Israel. Imagine just how many days David spent, tucked out of sight, faithfully shepherding his flock.
Or Mary, who had likely lived an ordinary life and done nothing spectacular to warrant the appearance of the Angel Gabriel, who told her she would become the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.
While God did call these people to very special positions, there were still many days and years before and even after that “calling” when their lives remained very ordinary and nothing “special” happened. But even those parts of their lives mattered, and God was still very much present and looking after them during those run-of-the-mill days.
When we appreciate that God badly wants to dwell in our ordinary, our lives can have much deeper meaning and spiritual overflow.
To do this, I’ve thought of three tips that may be helpful:
Tip One: Get comfortable with the ordinary
In any relationship, it is healthy to be comfortable with the ordinary. Just as my marriage to my husband has a lot of moments where we sit side by side on the couch watching a movie, as well as times where we get dressed up or go for a weekend away, our relationship with God will have instances of ordinary, and other instances of sudden invigoration.
Getting comfortable with the ordinary means we see it for what it is, which is a time and a season. Possibly the most famous passage out of Ecclesiastes speaks of there being a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Of course, if this passage were written by a modern, FOMO-induced Christian, it’d probably be scripted a little differently: There is a time for all the good stuff, under heaven. A time for only good things, a time for fun exciting stuff, a time for reaping nonstop . . .
But our lives are a constant tide of seasons. Times of reaping and harvest, times of investment and sowing, times of shedding and pruning, and times when things literally look dead.
Something I love about the spiritual practices of the more traditional denominations is a heavy dependence on the church calendar, where certain times of the year manifest in different ways. Periods of celebration and newness, decorated with flowers, and periods where they take down decorations in resonance with a period of fasting. Identifying the significance of seasons enables us to be better comfortable with the ordinary.
As I consider the more ordinary seasons of our lives, I am always reminded that the famous verse—“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4)—is preceded by these words: “Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”
Rather than seeing these seasons of ordinary as boring, we can see them instead as opportunities to cultivate faithfulness.
Tip Two: Sanctify everything
Another unfortunate attribute of modern life is that we have dichotomised our lives. Most of us have rounded things up and labeled them “spiritual” and “non-spiritual”, and this is neither helpful nor consistent with Christian belief.
We need only to look at the length and details of the Law of Moses to see that the whole lives of the people of Israel are shaped by their spirituality. Ceremonial cleansing, rules around food, even those they married, were areas within the scope of their relationship with Yahweh.
Romans 12 reminds us that we are to offer our whole lives as a living sacrifice, worthy and pleasing of Him. Not just what we do on a Sunday or during our quiet times, but everything—our daily commute, our lunch break, our interactions with shop assistants and even the time gaps we tend to fill by scrolling thoughtlessly through our socials.
I recently spent a few days in hospital and on the day before I was discharged, a wonderful woman in my room deteriorated very suddenly. In seconds, she had become totally unresponsive, and at least 15 medical staff came in with resuscitation gear. In the middle of all of this was her weeping mother-in-law and her panicked four-year-old son.
Sitting in my PJs with an IV line in didn’t make that moment any less of an opportunity to be Jesus’s hands and feet to these people, so I swept up the little boy, and we spent twenty minutes or so watching YouTube videos on his iPad so his grandmother could be with my roommate. Once the dust had settled, I was able to have a wonderful and very meaningful conversation about faith and trusting in God—as it turns out, they were not Christians.
God had met me in my ordinary. He came into a very ordinary unspiritual moment and used it for His glory.
Just as we need to become more comfortable with the ordinary, likewise we need to sanctify it—to search out ways that God can inhabit it, rather than seeing our day-to-day as entirely carnal, and realise that it’s an element in our worship. This includes the way we do our tasks and our heart orientation—without grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14-15).
Of course, there are days we literally do not feel like it and can’t be bothered, but God can handle those emotions too. At the very least, we can be honest with Him about those feelings, and doing so actually enables us better to encounter Him.
Tip Three: Slow down
Recently I watched Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, and I loved the scene where Whoopie Goldberg finally managed to break through to the unruly kids in her music class by singing the lyrics:
if you wanna be somebody
if you wanna go somewhere
you better wake up and pay attention.
It is easy to rush through life, with the hundreds of tasks that fill up our days. My average day is a steady sequence of boxes that need to be ticked. Wake up—check. Get my daughter’s things ready for school—check. Go to work—check. Pick up my daughter—check. Go home and bathe and feed every creature in my house—check.
I was reading John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, and what struck a chord in me came from this advice from the late Dallas Willard: “Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Slowing down, getting off the conveyor belt, and paying attention—this is the secret to inviting God into my ordinary. I’m reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 11:28-30. Here is Jesus Himself calling for my attention:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In the book mentioned earlier, John Mark says something else simple, yet powerful: “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
As part of slowing down and paying attention, every day I search for conversations with friends or even strangers, where I can either be a mouthpiece of God’s good news for their lives or listen to how they can speak of God’s will into mine.
Then there are other ways that help me slow down and pay attention:
Driving into work, rather than listening to music or talkback radio, I turn the volume down and tell God about my day, my worries, my cares, my hopes, and my joys.
Washing my dishes, doing my family’s mountain of ironing, whatever the chore, I chat with God. Just talking to Him, like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 says: “Rejoice always, pray continually.” I thank Him for my home, for those in my life, for the blessings He has given me and for the desires of my heart.
I encourage you today to take stock of your life. Notice, really notice, what you fill your days with, and consciously invite God into those moments, regardless of how mundane they may feel or seem. He waits in those moments, and His glory can be found in each one of them.