Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Mundane Into The Glorious

Author’s Note:
I want to express my sincerest gratitude to those of you who read along with my blog stories and musings. I am often encouraged by the replies that I receive. Your comments serve to reinforce and further bless me in my own spiritual convictions.

Emily has been kind enough to allow me to share an excerpt from an email with me relating how our day-to-day humble service is important. The work that we might be tempted to consider dull or inconsequential or trivial is sacred

(*As usual: names, locations, identifying data have been altered)

Email Excerpt:

“Our small, insignificant mundane acts can still be sacred acts to God. Perhaps?"

Yes - definitely!

After my youngest started school, I was feeling a bit useless. I remember, after perhaps drinking a bit too much wine at home one time, bemoaning that I felt like a "waste of space".  I was missing the status of having a career and being needed 24/7 by small children. I didn't know what to do next with my life now that I was no longer “needed”.

Finally I got a job doing the bookkeeping in a little office next to a small joiners workshop with the wood dust and loud machines and loud blokes hollering and swearing. It felt like a big step down from what I was used to do, but the hours were convenient so I took the job, working for a lovely lady called Helen (*). The record books were in a terrible mess at the workshop. Helen hadn't balanced the bank accounts in over a year and I wondered how she could continue to operate. I slowly starting unpicking the figures and bringing things up to date.

So I worked at the joiners two days a week and spent the rest of the time helping my friend Miriam dig her garden allotment and chatting to my neighbour, Sandra, over her fence.

One week I sat in church and asked God what I was supposed to be doing. I asked Him what He saw in me and what was my purpose in life. The vicar was talking, but I wasn't really listening. I just stared at the pale figure of Christ in the stained glass.

Suddenly a question popped up. "Can you be a servant?" The question seemed to come from the stained-glass window I was staring at.

"But I don't want to be a servant,” I replied, without thinking it was just a little strange to be having a conversation with a stained glass window.

Then I remembered the words in the Methodist Covenant Prayer: Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

As I sat staring at the figure of Christ in the stained glass, I began to realise that the reason Helen hadn't been looking after the bank accounts for her workshop was that she was so busy attending to the needs of a sickly friend. Helen was unable to manage the accounts because she was spending her time, instead, taking her friend with cancer to chemotherapy appointments and looking after her friend’s children.  But now Helen had a bookkeeper (me). Now she could continue to care for her cancer friend without worrying over her business affairs. My humble tallying of mathematical figures in the joiner’s business accounts was a worthy occupation and was necessary for the smooth running of the business but also blessed others in ways I did not initially realise. Helen had peace of mind and her sick cancer friend benefited through my careful booking efforts as well. My “insignificant” efforts in balancing the business books blessed others in ways I never imagined.

As I let that first realisation sink into my consciousness, a second awareness dawned. Miriam, the neighbour that I helped dig in her garden, actually spent those long hours cultivating her allotment because it took her mind off a series of miscarriages. I couldn't fix these, but I could relate, and I could sit out in the sun and the rain with her while she grieved. To ‘weep with those who weep’ was an act of love that was within my capacity to give Miriam.

And then, as I continued to sit in church and absorb the full impact of this second act, a third thought struck me. (It was becoming a very fruitful ‘conversation’ with a stained-glass window).  I realised that the reason Sandra sat out in her garden by her fence, hour after hour, was that she was lonely. Her husband had recently died leaving her all alone but she was reluctant to go and knock on anyone's door for fear of being an "imposition". Instead she sat outside by her fence, hoping for someone to come by and talk with her. I couldn't fix the death of Sandra’s husband but I could listen and chat with her.

So, there I was in church, still staring at the pale figure of Christ in the glass window without listening to the Vicar’s message but hearing a message from God nonetheless. I’d been thinking about Solomon in the Bible when he built the temple mentioned in Chronicles. It took thirteen years with the craftsman having to make all sorts of paraphernalia out of wood and metal. Their work must have been quite boring and tedious, detailed workmanship to create such intricate temple ornaments according to the tight specifications. (In fact, just reading the story in Chronicles is rather mind numbing and a good treatment for insomnia!) Perhaps the craftsmen as they carved out yet another silver embellishment wondered why they were doing it; but, God honoured their work. When all was finished, His glory descended upon the temple and it was, well, glorious. So, too, God was being honoured by my own faithfulness to the small acts of day-to-day service opportunities. I was like the craftsmen in Chronicles with my attention to the details of my accounting, my digging, and my chatting. They were important sacred acts of loving service to God. The mundane made glorious in Christ.

“That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for GOD’s sake, which we commonly do for our own. …That the most excellent method he had found of going to GOD, was that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing men, and (as far as we are capable) purely for the love of GOD.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God