Jesus cares about your ordinary ordeals. And he wants to walk with you through them.



I don’t generally struggle with finding value in the ordinary of everyday life. I like living in the background and I’ve spent most of the last 15 years at home with children living in the unseen ordinary. I believe that “in all toil there is profit” (Prov. 14:23) and the familiar chorus of “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)” is never far from my thoughts. I have moments, of course, but my battles generally lie elsewhere.

I do some of my best thinking while I’m in my laundry room. Strange but true. I remember so many laundry room moments of profound thankfulness for the lovely ordinary life I’ve been given. These sentiments felt appropriate in this space as there is nothing more unending, monotonous and mundane than laundry — the essence of ordinary.

One month ago we realized that a couch we took from a neighbor was infested with “bugs-who-shall-not-be-named.” That’s how I feel about them. I won’t go into the details, but the process of dealing with these horrid creatures is so painful that moving would be easier. The irony of my laundry room musings hit full force as we spent days at the laundromat doing hundreds (not exaggerating) of loads of laundry. We still have hundreds left. Suddenly, I felt zero thankfulness whatsoever for the ordinary.

I was mad. Really ticked off. I wasn’t angry at any person because I knew it was just one of those things. No, I was angry at God. The most frustrating sort of ordinary was taking a month away from the ordinary that I actually really like. I’ve accepted and walked through God’s sovereignty in so many days and seasons in my life, but these abhorrent little critters had me paralyzed in puddles of angry tears. I wondered if I were being punished for I don’t even know what. I stewed and worried over the cost of eradicating these little devils. I ran the gauntlet of emotions—I felt that my struggle was not quite rational, I knew that in the grand scheme of life it really wasn’t that bad, but acceptance and peace seemed out of reach.

Providentially and most definitely not coincidentally, I am currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. In the first few pages I ran into this:

 

Yet God made us spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?...Christ’s ordinary years are part of our redemption story. Because of the incarnation and those long, unrecorded years of Jesus’ life, our small, normal lives matter. If Christ was a carpenter, all of us who are in Christ find that our work is sanctified and made holy...If Christ spent most of his life in quotidian ways, then all of life is brought under his lordship. There is no task too small or too routine to reflect God’s glory and worth.

 

I felt a chink in my armor. A few more chapters in I hit this:

 

In my own life there have been seasons of deep sorrow. But this is not that. This is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the roadside ditch of broken things and lost objects, the potholes of gloom and unwanted interruptions. . . . And yet here is where I find myself on an ordinary day, and here in my petty anger and irritation, is where the Savior deigns to meet me.

 

Another chink. Two pages later and God poked me with this:

 

When suffering is sharp and profound, I expect and believe that God will meet me in its midst. But in the struggles of my average day I somehow feel I have a right to be annoyed. The indignations and irritations of the modern world feel authentic and understandable...in a shipwreck, yes of course, ‘be content.’ But the third day in a row of poor sleep and a backed-up sink? That’s too much to ask.

 

I get this. I have experienced this. As I write these words I sit in my grandma’s hospital room while she rests and recovers from surgery. I have rearranged my week to be here for a few days and I did not consider doing anything else. The divergence in my schedule is unwelcome, but only in the sense that I hate seeing people I love suffer and struggle. Loving my family and friends never feels like a waste. I accept these rearrangements as part of the broken, imperfect world we walk in. I engage with the Lord and I long for heaven.

But bugs? Too much to ask. However, I sense God pushing some new insights into my theology.

I’m starting to see, as Tish Harrison Warren expresses, that “I had a theology of suffering that allowed me to pay attention in crisis, to seek small flickers of mercy in profound darkness. But my theology was too big to touch a typical day in my life. I’d developed the habit of ignoring God in the midst of the daily grind.”

My grandma was berating herself for falling, her injury a very unwelcome interruption into her daily life. She was simply taking out the trash. It just happened. Without blinking, I can tell her that it had nothing to do with a mistake or error in judgment she made. In this broken and decaying world, we live in broken and decaying bodies. But this month I asked essentially the same question: What if I hadn’t taken the couch? I follow up that question with memories of every inconvenience endured because of such a simple act.

And yet here is where I find myself on an ordinary day, and here in my petty anger and irritation, is where the Savior deigns to meet me.

And he has met me. I have felt his tenderness, presence and purpose in so many ways.

Through our friend who donated time and resources and expertise to help on a moment’s notice. In the hour’s-long laundromat conversation I had with an elderly Vietnam vet. In the free-donut coupons we found in the snow as we were hauling laundry. In the laughter shared and pizza inhaled during our multiple laundromat pizza picnics. In the placement of Pulcinella’s Pizza, a short walk across the parking lot from the laundromat to order said pizzas. In receiving eating-out money from family. In working together as a family to defeat a common foe. In anonymous cash that arrived in the mail and other offerings that helped pay for the exterminator. In the memories we have created that in years to come I’m sure will be humorous, the stuff of folklore.

This is not even the complete list—mercies sprinkled over our last month. Proof for my heart that God really is in every facet of my life.

 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

 

I hope to never see one of these bugs again, but no matter the circumstances I face, I hope I can pay attention and meet my Savior in my everyday ordinary.