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Magnificently mundane

Let's not overlook the presence of God in the mundane aspects of everyday life, says Richard Powney

I always struggle to return to work after a holiday. Some of my colleagues, on the other hand, love coming back into the office; they say they'd be bored if they stayed on holiday. I don't have that problem; I think I'd be an excellent full-time holidaymaker.

The post-holiday blues have led me to reflect more on the value of the everyday, ordinary activities of life, however. They’ve even caused me to try and embrace the mundane.

Social media can make it seem like life is one big, instagrammable’ adventure. Yet, at least in my experience, the majority of life is made up of normal, ordinary experiences. In an interesting way, a cursory reading of Acts of the Apostles could leave you thinking that every day involves a miraculous adventure. Yet, in my exploration of the mundane, I’ve read into the chronology of Acts and this has provided a helpful insight into both the spectacular and humdrum events and activities of everyday life. Let’s take Peter as an example.

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2) can sometimes be held up as the moment when, after his ups and downs of following Jesus, Peter finally gets it’. However, in Acts 10, we read about Peter experiencing a strange vision on a rooftop. The vision leads him to preach the gospel to Cornelius’ household and have the beautiful insight that God does not show favouritism” as he realises the gospel is for even the Gentiles. 

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Both moments are anything but mundane. But I think it’s important for us to bear in mind that, according to commentaries, these two events happened around 8 to 10 years apart. Yes, there are these incredible, mountain-top moments in Peter’s life, but the period that separated the sermon and the revelation does make me wonder what Peter’s everyday life looked like.

In our current culture I think there is a danger of chasing after the mountain-top experiences or the instant fix, forgetting that transformation comes about through faithfully living life with God through the highs and lows. As an analogy, think about a marriage. For my wife and I, holidays provide great quality time together that reinvigorates our relationship. That being said, our relationship wouldn’t be that healthy if we only spent time together on holiday. We discover the strength and health of our relationship as we live life together through the ups and downs of ordinary life.

I would suggest that most of the life of Christian faith is made up of many daily decisions to live faithfully as disciples of Jesus, called to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. These decisions could well look very ordinary or involve quite mundane tasks, but it does not mean they’re insignificant or that God is absence. 

Brother Lawrence reminds us in his little book The Practice of the Presence of God that we can experience the presence of God in tasks as mundane as washing dishes. All of our life, the mundane and the extraordinary, can be enabled by God’s Spirit to cooperate in God’s renewal of all things.

In Matthew 13, Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to yeast in dough. Yeast is microscopic, yet it is that which causes bread to rise. As I get back into the swing of ordinary life, I’m committing to recognising and encouraging the presence of God in the mundane, trusting that God’s Spirit will use my small everyday decisions to play a part in seeing His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

About the author

Rich currently works part time in the unity for mission team at the Evangelical Alliance. He recently began a PhD in theology at the London School of Theology. To relax, you’ll often find Rich and his wife, Kit, enjoying the outdoors – preferably up a mountain.

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