Last week, a package came for me. Inside was a new Bible and a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I could hardly wait to open both of them! It used to be that I would have categorized one of the items as sacred and the other as secular, and although I would argue that the Bible is more important, I no longer believe in the false dichotomy of “sacred” and “secular.”
Living a divided life
In The Pursuit of God, A. W Tozer notes that we are living divided lives: we count all of our spiritual practices as “sacred” and we think of the rest of our ordinary, daily tasks as “secular”—a waste of our time. This leaves us trying to “walk the tightrope between two kingdoms” and “finding no peace in either.”
But Tozer points to the life of Christ. In John 8:29, Jesus says “I do always those things that please him [the Father].” This means the ordinary human things that go along with living in a body were sacred too: eating, drinking, napping, playing. Of course, there are ways we can sin against our bodies—but for the Christian who is engaging in the daily activities of living, there is no need to become discouraged thinking we should be doing something more “sacred” with our time. There needn’t be any guilt in picking up a work of fiction, styling your hair, playing golf.
Jesus was fully God and fully human, which means that He led an embodied life. He spent time learning carpentry, the family trade. He ate and drank at festivals. He traveled with His family. He laughed with His friends. He washed His face. He participated in all the mundane moments in life. None of those activities were unholy or secular. It’s true that some of His doings were more important than others. The gospel accounts in the Bible mention one scene from his youth (Luke 2:42-52) and focus heavily on the three years of his ministry leading up to his death and resurrection. Preaching, teaching, and healing were certainly more important than His years practicing carpentry.
But those years weren’t wrong, or secular, or a waste of time.
Similarly, we shouldn’t consider our daily tasks to be some kind of necessary evil getting in the way of our relationship with God. We need to stop confining God to our quiet time and instead focus and refocus our attention on Him throughout the day. God’s presence is with us always, even as we wipe the kitchen counters, pack the kids a snack, muster the patience for another toddler tantrum, get stuck in traffic, and pick up the groceries. It’s just that we’re not always attuned to God’s presence. We are distracted by the many wants and needs of Self.
But what would happen if we treated all parts of living as sacramental living? What if we treated every task as sacred, aware of God’s presence with us? What if we truly believed that our “daily labors can be performed as acts of worship acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” as Tozer puts it?
Tuning out to tune in
The week we got back home to San Diego after a summer spent in Michigan, we hit the ground running. We only had a few days before school started and the to-do lists were long. While my husband was at work, I knew that a hard errand was going to fall on my shoulders: picking up the remains of our beloved dog from the vet. Barney passed away right before our summer trip and we had asked the office to hold on to the little cedar box for us until we got home.
It’s a thirty minute drive to our vet and I toyed with the radio for a minute, then considered listening to a podcast. I wanted a distraction from this morbid errand, but instead I chose silence on the car ride there. I let myself deal with my feelings as they came, remembering Barney as a puppy, tearing around our backyard, thinking of how he would stand on two legs for people food, or lay his head in our laps when he was tired.
Thinking of all the joy he brought us over the course of 13 years, I was overcome with both sorrow and gratitude, and I turned it into a prayer, right there on the I-8. Because God was there in the car with me too. And I was even more aware of His presence since I had silenced the noise.
Count it all as sacred
I would argue that quiet time spent with God is more important than cleaning my kitchen. And cooking a meal for my family is more important than doing my grad school homework. But all of it is sacred when we offer our acts to God. Since His presence is always with us through the Holy Spirit, we can turn our attention to God at any point in the day, whether we’re in the middle of the mundane or in the middle of the extraordinary.
I love Tozer’s advice for us:
I’ll leave you with these breath prayers that remind you of God’s presence and encourage you to offer your simple deeds to Him:
Lord Jesus … you are with me even now.
Lord Jesus … I offer up this work to you.