In contrast to my last post, which encouraged a spirituality of adventure, now I want us to consider finding the extraordinary God in the ordinariness of everyday life.
It’s not hard to find preachers who will tell you that God wants to give you an amazing life. Of course, the discerning theologians among you will know that the truth of this all depends on your definition of ‘amazing.’ Author Michael Kelly argues in his book Boring: Finding an extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life (2013) that while it’s good to chase your dreams, and have a spirituality of adventure [see my last blog post], we also need to be careful that we don’t start finding our significance with God only in what is big, showy and exciting. Kelly’s point is that we should resist thinking that being ‘extraordinary’ (in the popular sense) is what matters to God:
What if the whole idea of “ordinary” is a myth? And what if a life of great importance isn’t found by escaping the details but embracing them? What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it?
Kelly wants us to learn to find the beauty of God and his gospel in the ordinary. Learning to do this is important for any Christian who wants to experience spiritual nourishment. Sure, you can walk the Camino trail in Spain, spend time with the Taize community in France, or go to the Hillsong conference in Sydney, but what if you could experience transcendence while cleaning your bedroom?
In Colossians 3:23 Paul tells us: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” He wants the Church to be a people who do not have their hearts and minds focused on earthly things, but on things above.
This requires a kind of mindfulness. Merri Creek Anglican member Ed Cavanough recently gave a great talk about being heavenly mindful. He urged us (along with the Apostle Paul) to embrace our new lives as people who have been “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1) by setting our hearts and minds on “things above” (Colossians 3:2).
I loved this idea of Christianising mindfulness, so we are not just being mindful in the earthly here-and-now, but so we become mindful of God in the here-and-now.
Mindfulness has become an important practice for helping some people overcome depression and anxiety. When they struggle to move on from the difficulties they have experienced in the past, depression can set in. Mindfulness can certainly help people move their focus away from the past and onto the present.
Mindfulness is not necessarily Biblical — it is, in fact, Buddhist in origin — yet Ed did not reject mindfulness as a concept but used it to build a bridge to Paul’s idea of a ‘Godward posture’ or, as the writer of the Hebrews says, to: “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
In the last couple of blog posts I have written about the problem of being religious but not spiritual (RBNS). Heavenly mindfulness is another great way of becoming spiritually nourished for people who only experience dry religion.
How, then, can we become heavenly mindful? What are some discipleship practices that can help us find God and the beauty of the gospel in the ordinary?
- Say grace before your meals
- Pray in the car on your way to work
- Put a cross up in your kitchen to remind you of Jesus when you are doing the dishes
- Read your Bible and pray each day
- Make a point of asking your Christian friends about how their faith is going (not just about their work and family)
- Pray for the little things as well as the big things (“God, please help me to find my keys”)
- Practice the spiritual disciplines which help you focus on God, such as meditation, silence and fasting
- Choose a posture of gratitude to God, which could include, each day, making yourself name ten things for which you are thankful
- Put a Bible on your desk at work as a prompt to involve God in your decisions and interactions with colleagues (you may even want to read it!)
- Set reminders on your phone to pray (there is a good app calledCommon Prayer for Androids and iPhones that can send reminders).
The list I have given is not meant to be prescriptive: hopefully you will think of your own approach. The point is to build systems that bring God into your everyday life.