Tuesday, March 17, 2015

76/365 The Everyday Holy

These everyday things, these are the holy things that mean everything. But how can they be holy, if they are not grand? How are they set apart and of value, if they touch nothing and make no impact? 

*going to quote at length here from a passage of a book I read this afternoon that left me underlining so much I decided not underlining would probably stand out more in my forest of lines.

"This, it turns out, is God's plan for us and like the disciples we are amazed by it. We are dismayed, really, because this is not the great work that we had imagined for ourselves. We aspire to greatness and instead Jesus calls us to the everyday labor of a common household servant. We want to do something significant and He consigns us to ordinary work.

This is the sort of menial work that the hotel housekeeper does when she pushes her lumbering cart piled high with towels, tiny bars of soap, and the strips of paper she puts over the toilet seat to prove that she just cleaned it. It is work that is quickly forgotten, even when it is done carefully. This is the kind of thing which, once it is finished, must be done again the very next day. We call it grunt work-- drudgery. It is something one does for minimum wage or less. In fact, this is the kind of dead-end job that many of us go into the ministry to get away from. We leave it behind because we want our lives to "make a difference."

Writing about ethics, theologian Stanley Hauerwas notes that many find ordinary life "morally uninteresting." They do not define the Christian life in relation to the humdrum but to revolution and conflict. Hauerwas argues that, instead, the emphasis should be placed on the everyday; "For the moral significance of our lives is not constituted by moving from one significant social problem to another; rather, it depends on our willingness to work at being human through the manifold particularity of our lives. It is a matter of what we do with our time, whether we are willing to work to make our marriages worthwhile, how well we perform our everyday tasks."

Hauerwas explains that this failure of vision is a result of our inability to "see" the world "under the mode of the divine." As a result, we who are immersed in the everyday are often blind to its real spiritual value. Because it is common, it is not holy. Because it is ours, it is not significant. Instead of sanctifying the dull present, we dream of a more dynamic reality. Instead of living "through the manifold particularity of our lives," we ignore the ordinary in the hope that we will be called to some higher purpose. Because we are waiting for God to do some great thing through us, we are dismissive of the small thing that He actually intends us to do.

-excerpt from "The Surprising Grace of Disappointment" by John Koessler

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