God is in the Mundane

The scandal of the Old Testament – Genesis, for instance – is to some modern readers the fact that so many of God’s acts are perfectly ordinary and seemingly trivial: the choice of a wife for Isaac, or the skill with which Jacob becomes rich. These are hardly what we would call “divine” acts in the sense of having a special and marvelous character about them. But they are nevertheless the acts of God. Hence, there is a disconcerting aura of secularity about much of God’s activity as recorded in the Bible, and uneasiness with this has generally led certain types of philosophic religiosity to improve on the concept of God, seeking to make it more spiritual, more impressive to man’s mind, in a word, more “divine.”

Thomas Merton
 
 “Seven Words for Ned O’Gorman” (III – Divine), Love and Living

It’s often disturbingly easy for me – along with other Christians – to fall into this pseudo-Gnostic mindset that divides the spiritual from the physical along a definite line. It’s easy to think that God is much too “divine” to be concerned with the banalities of my day-to-day existence. Other people don’t care; why should God?

But where did we get this idea that God is too big to be conscious of the little things? Being infinite, wouldn’t He have – quite literally – all the time in the universe to be concerned with the little things, whereas we do not?

What if the acts of God aren’t always grand and sweeping, but more often so small and ordinary we can hardly discern them?

God called the physical world “good” when He created it. He calls the human body His temple. Everything I touch and see (and even things I don’t) is made of matter that was brought into being, however long ago, by His spoken Word: His breath. Surely there is no more profound integration of the physical and the spiritual than this. God choosing to express Himself through creation. And then bridging the gap by entering it Himself – becoming incarnate. The Word made flesh.

Why do we insist on dividing what He has brought together?

Was meeting Luke (my husband) God-ordained? I absolutely believe it, but sometimes it sounds so fanciful to say out loud. How about this new job offer that might take us out-of-state? Should I even bother God with my anxiety over it?

The answer seems to be: He wants to be bothered. How else should I interpret the fact that He decided to become a dusty, sweaty carpenter and experience human life for Himself? Isn’t the fact that He used some dirt and spit to make a blind man see again proof enough that He doesn’t mind – even treasures – the ordinary grime of our existence, the ordinary struggles?

This is the God I believe in: the God that loves His creation in all its messiness. Emmanuel, God with us. His plan is to renew and redeem the physical world, not to destroy it. His plan is to mend the broken bonds between body and soul, Earth and heaven, the seen and the unseen. And He might just use a bit of dirt and spit to do it.

Who am I to argue?

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