Updated: May 2, 2019
“Where is God in ordinary life? When I’m numb and tired from heaps of laundry and stubborn kids. Where is God on those days I need him most? The days I feel anything but close to God—anything but awe and wonder.”
Her question felt sticky on me like my kids' fingers after pancakes. It lingered in a way that couldn’t be wiped off—clinging to every new thought and experience: “Where are you God in this ordinary life?”
Maybe it’s a question you’ve wondered yourself when you’re elbow deep in dirty dishes, in bills that keep collecting like dust and weeds. You’ve wondered, “where are you God?” when depression or anxiety cloud your mind. “Where are you God?” in the dark bedroom where pain pins you down or worries keep you from sleep. “Where are you God? day after day in the office that begins to feel like a prison sentence—in the long days at home when you are lonely and worn out from babies and to do lists. We struggle to find God when questions and uncertainty are the only known thing, when our unanswered prayers fall from our lips and blow away like lost leaves.
The question stuck for a bit, then washed away with new worries and questions, like a seashell swept back into the deep where it began.
Then one ordinary day the question whispered in my mind like a forgotten secret as I walked to the park with my sister and our little girls.
My littlest’s hand was wrapped in mine as we meandered at her pace. Ahead of us, my almost-six year old cruised on her new Schwinn rollerblades. They seemed too big for her little feet. She looked as though she could topple over at any minute and yet she lumbered forward, over the cracks and tiny hills, while I held my breath at every uncertain lurch and wobble.
We can live in a world where everything has purpose and meaning, or nothing.
It was like any other mundane moment of motherhood that for me was exploding with love and longing, fear and helplessness, and I couldn’t help but wonder if God experiences this same uncertain love as he lets us make our own way in the world. Does he fight back the urge to scoop us up and protect us from the pain of an inevitable skinned knee? Does he wince with empathy as we cry out in pain?
That morning I read an obscure book that was a compilation of the words and teachings of an eighteenth century Roman Catholic mystic, Jeanne-Pierre de Caussade called, "The Sacrament of the Present Moment". Was it chance that I picked up this book among the dozens of discarded books in my sister’s garage? I took a wet paper towel and removed the sticky layer of dust that clung to the cover and turned to a random page, pausing to read as the heading caught my attention: “God Is Everywhere.” Caussade had penned these words while corresponding with a woman who was struggling to find God in her life:
“You are seeking God, dear sister, and he is everywhere. Everything proclaims him to you, everything reveals him to you, everything brings him to you. He is by your side, over you, around you, within you…you seek perfection and it lies in everything that happens to you – your suffering, your actions, your impulses are the mysteries under which God himself reveals himself to you.”
Was it chance that I had chosen this book and turned to this page? I don’t think so.
We can live in a world where everything has purpose and meaning, or nothing.
I believe that God uses every moment, every bit of our surroundings, every experience, circumstance, and emotion to reveal himself to us and teach us something, if we allow it.
Is this an intense way to live? Sometimes. But it’s exciting too—as if our days are formed by an ongoing treasure hunt with God. One discovery leads to the next, each layering to form meaning, and nuance, and purpose.
I have come to this place by looking at my past. All the times that God had been speaking to me, forming me, teaching me, and yet I was too absorbed with the present circumstances to see the bigger God picture.
Depression is like walking in the dark alone, even if you are somewhere flooded with light and people. Anxiety is the fear that people and circumstances are working against you.
My journey in overcoming depression and anxiety has been to seek a constant companion that walks with me in the dark alone. That holds my hand and will lead me through it. I've found a path through the dark with the practice of looking for God’s tiny glimmers of light along the way in this ordinary life. His gentle touches that guide me ahead.
I squint my eyes to find the people and circumstances that God is using for my good, even when life doesn’t feel good.
But even if we believe in a life that is overflowing with God’s meaning and purpose, there are still times that life can feel a bit mundane. There are times when the sharp fragments of life dull our hearts and senses and yearning for God. Disappointment, betrayal, uncertainty, isolation can sidetrack and disillusion us from a life of purpose. There are inevitable moments along the way when the question clangs in our heart, “Where are you God in this ordinary life?”
Caussade’s words awakened my heart to remember that my faith is fueled by the constant search for God.
So as I took that afternoon walk I felt God “by my side.” I looked for him in everything. He taught me the joy of walking hand in hand with my daughter as He yearns to walk hand in hand through life with me. He taught me the ache and deep love of watching our children grow as we release them to do things we know could cause them pain but let them fly. I smelled Spring in the jasmine and thanked God for unnoticed blessings.
`--God proclaimed in the lush tall trees that framed my view and filtered the heat of the sun.
--God in the creak of swings as kids rocked higher and kissed the sky.
--God in my daughters and their cousins linked by laughter and love as they relished the moments together.
--God’s handiwork and mystery in my tummy forming a hope-filled bump of new life.
What glimpses of God will you find in your ordinary life?
--The gurgle of hot coffee dripping in the pot.
--The birds that remind you it’s a new season, as hope spreads its wings in your soul.
--Giggling kids teaching you to find joy in this ordinary moment.
--A friend that asks hard questions.
--A coworker that really cares.
--A perfectly timed song that sings truth into your heart.
--The lazy pause with those you love to simply enjoy each other.
--The spark of hope when the world around us feels dark and answers feel hidden.
Too often we relegate God to stained glass and lofted ceilings—to highly trained men and volumes of books. But God is with us, speaking to us everywhere.
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.” Psalm 19:1-2 NLT
We pray that you would challenge us, confuse us, mystify us,
soothe and rouse our sleepy souls.
Disturb us so that we don’t find meaning and satisfaction
in only the things that are in plain view
but that we would reach and search for the hidden, small,
and sacred whispers of wonder in this ordinary life.
May we get to the end of ourselves,
the end of our earthly answers and explanation,
may we learn the longing that can’t be satisfied by anything
but faith, hope, and trust in you
knowing that we will never find satisfaction in this ordinary world
until we seek your extraordinary presence
that lies “beside us, over us, around us, within us,”
wrapped around, tucked within, set beside...
the struggles and experiences of this ordinary life.
We lay nose to nose in a lazy embrace, my daughter and I, whispering low and soft as night and sleep tip toe in.
"Mommy, do you love me?"
"Is there a moon in the sky?"
A giggle like a purr sounds deep in her throat.
"Mommy, does God love me?"
"God made love. Just like He made you."
His vastness expands my heart while His closeness is displayed
in her tiny puffs of breath as she drifts to sleep.
I smile at the reminder of God's love on this ordinary night.