The ‘Mundaneness’ of the Divine
I strongly suspect that one reason folks either don’t submit their lives to Christ or fall away is because it is boring.
Yeah, that’s a provocative statement. Hang with me for a minute, though. After every spiritual ‘high,’ daily life has a nasty way of rearing its, well, daily head. It’s routine, it’s boring, it’s mundane, it’s a distraction from the glory of the resurrection. It’s trials, it’s pain, it’s frustrations, it’s carnal, it’s ordinary.
When we read about the abundant life, we expect flowers blooming in our footsteps, angels singing as we pass, the feeling of Christ’s closeness uplifting us and constraining us from our natural selves, and in that freedom from falling to temptation, we will draw people to the Gospel like a lodestone.
You see that happen in Scripture, once. The Day of Pentecost. Yet, even there, mockers arose. One of the problems in any story is that the narrative skips over years of mundane daily life. Daniel lived to be over seventy years old, yet we have recorded maybe 2 years of actual activity. That leaves at least 68 years of normalcy—things not deemed worthy to record for our benefit.
As John Piper discusses with Bob Glenn in this video, our nature in this life is both physical and spiritual, completely wedded together and inseparable until death. Both natures inform and affect each other. We are so familiar with our physical existence, we rarely recognize how remarkable it is.
God’s instructions on taking care of ourselves physically also have the side benefit of keeping our spirit healthy. We don’t see most physical or daily activity as spiritual or special because it is familiar and ordinary. We dream of telepathy and special powers, not realizing how remarkable it is that we can communicate by passing air through flaps in our throats, and that we don’t need a manual to tell us how. We fail to recognize how our reflexes, our strength, our speed, our eye-hand coordination are stunning—they occur because of chemical and electrical reactions that occur very fast over a large distance involving communication between thousands of cells, yet it happens. The programming is already there at birth, waiting merely for development and practice.
The mundane is extraordinary. And God intended it that way.
A wedding is exciting, but it is not a marriage. It is the spark that kicks off the marriage—a life lived joined with another in a unique bond, but as every couple discovers, often surprisingly quickly, daily life gets in the way of the awe of the wedding. Yet it is that very dailiness of life together that the strength and miraculous nature of the marriage is revealed, through the testing, through the ennui, through the ups and downs both. There are the doe-eyed “I Love You” moments, yet there are far more of the half-lidded grunts that merely acknowledge existence.
Yet, and yet, marriage is the very best physical picture of the exact type of relationship God desires with us. Yes, yes, the picture is Fallen like the rest of Creation, but we must be careful not to ascribe more to the Fall than is there. The power of a marriage is that each sees the full spectrum of the other’s existence and sticks around, and even has doe-eyed moments in spite of it. It is knowing and being known, in every way, and being found acceptable and loved anyway.
Creation was a high point in the life of the universe. Everything was new, pristine. And God declared it good. But Scripture is clear that the new Creation was not meant to be a static portrait. He gave it to us to use, and yes, to literally conquer. There was to be daily life. Earth is a home, not a museum gallery.
Similarly, Jesus came, lived on this rock, died for our sins and rose to conquer death for all of us. Yet Scripture is still spotty on much of the details of His life. It was daily routine, and even extraordinary in its normalcy. Scripture hints at this through the shock of his neighbors when He ‘comes out’ about His ministry and true Identity. This shows their expectation of Him as an everyday guy.
If He lived most of His life apparently ‘ordinary,’ why should we think ourselves gypped when routine seems to dominate? Familiarity breeds contempt, and because we are so fully immersed in the wonder of daily life, we fail to appreciate its splendor and divine fingerprint. Our dissatisfaction shows our lack of understanding.
The principles and commands of Scripture are meant to be followed in a daily life. In doing so, we are more prone to notice the tremors of glory in the course of our day. We are more likely to be in the right frame of mind to see the Hand of God at work, and to turn aside to myriad mini burning bushes.
One of God’s greatest achievements is accomplishing extraordinary things through the most ordinary means possible. We don’t see it coming, and it looks like a ‘miracle’ because it just seems to happen, until you look back and the apparently featureless landscape that was once ahead of you has a blazing path trailing behind you, now that you know what to look for.
C. S. Lewis said it best (of course) in The Weight of Glory when talking about us as mere humans, and it applies just as aptly to daily life, if we will but recognize it:
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously -- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner -- no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment."