How God Meets Us in the Ordinary

While watching a detective show with my husband, it struck me that in order to condense the story to an hour, they had to leave out a lot of parts. The show’s writers couldn’t include the ordinary, mundane scenes between the action:

  • The police paperwork
  • The commute to work
  • Doing the dishes
  • Walking the dog
  • Filling up with gas

Including those details would not only make the show much too long, but it would also be much too boring! And I think that’s part of why we are drawn to watching stories play out on the screen or between the pages of a good novel: we get to see the highlight reel laid out in such a way as to experience a satisfying conclusion.

Living through the ordinary

Meanwhile, we are in the midst of living through our own stories, but there is no option to edit out the boring, mundane, and ordinary parts. We can’t skip over the details to get to the fun, exciting, and meaningful parts. Sometimes, we even treat our current stories as if they don’t count: we think “when this happens and my REAL life begins…” as we look ahead to graduating, or getting our dream job, or finally getting married, or becoming a mom.

But wanting to gloss over the seemingly unimportant parts of life is to wish away our lives altogether!

Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn, in an essay about washing dishes, notes:

“If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert or a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert or my tea when I finally have them. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will be constantly dragged into the future, miss out on life altogether, and never be able to live in the present moment.”

Thich Nhat Hahn, At Home in the World

On an ordinary Wednesday last week, I woke up less-than-eager for what the day held in store: a writing deadline, a big trip to Costco, my son’s after-school event, and a social obligation I regretted making for myself. I lingered over my morning cup of coffee and wished I could evade each of the day’s responsibilities. I told God as much in prayer. 

Then, it occurred to me that beauty and delight were just as available to me on that day as any other, and maybe I just needed to keep my eyes peeled for it. Maybe, instead of an attitude of dread, I could see that my ability to carry out the demands of this ordinary day was in itself a gift: the time I have to devote to my writing instead of working outside the home, the physical ability to lift heavy groceries at Costco, a son who delighted in his own friend community, a social call with a friend who actively wanted to spend time with me. I gulped the last of my coffee as my boys woke up, still wishing I could fast-forward to a more interesting day, but determined to be present for this one. 

how God meets us in the ordinary

Start where you are

In her book Acedia and Me, Kathleen Norris writes:

“We want life to have meaning, and want to be fulfilled, and it is hard to accept that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we would like to be. Our greatest spiritual blessings are likely to reveal themselves not in exotic settings but in everyday tasks and trials.”

Kathleen Norris, Acedia and me

On that ordinary Wednesday, I kept my eyes peeled for what blessings were to be found in the mundane “tasks and trials” of the day. I saw that my words flowed easily for my writing project, allowing me to make great progress toward my deadline. I saw a three-digit total ring up at Costco, which I was able to pay without a second thought. I saw my boys getting along in the backseat on our way home from school. I saw hummingbirds hover over birds of paradise when I was walking the dog. I saw two mom friends at my son’s after-school event. I saw I had enough physical and mental energy after my long day to actually enjoy the walk with my friend.

If I’d had it my way, I would have skipped over it all, jumping to the part where I get to unwind with a cup of tea alongside my husband, after the kids go to bed. But I’m learning what St. Teresa of Avila knew to be true:

“God walks among the pots and pans.”

Blessings in the ordinary

I wonder if we could change our mindset about the unglamorous parts of our days, or even the boring seasons of our lives. Instead of something we just need to get through so we can enjoy the more interesting and fun parts, what if we were determined to find the spiritual blessings in the ordinary and mundane moments and seasons? What if we stayed present to wrest whatever beauty, delight, and goodness can be found there?

Then, we could say with the Psalmist:

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11, NIV)

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*Feature Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

16 thoughts on “How God Meets Us in the Ordinary

  1. What a wonderful post about appreciating the ordinary things in life. You don’t really understand how important they are until it’s gone. When you are sick, you crave the ordinary again as it’s the best part of living.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this this reminder to enjoy the beauty God gives us in the seemingly mundane routines of every day! I’m holding onto this through the day ahead of me right now. And I laughed when you talked about Costco! I love Costco, but we live too far away from one to justify a membership. I’d be so excited to go on a Costco trip! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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