Doing the Everyday, Every Day
Some days my life seems to be oozing with repetition and simplicity. It feels like there’s nothing special or unique about most of what I do. I rarely see the significance in cleaning the house, making zucchini bread, doing laundry, buying groceries, making phone calls, responding to e-mails, grading papers, changing diapers, and so on. It is even harder when I am repeating these tasks for the sixth time in one week.
A part of me has bought into the lie that small, everyday things don’t matter very much. You know, ordinary stuff. The “everyday” kind of things that you do every day. Instead I’m tempted to believe that what really counts are those monumental experiences with God that take your breath away—moments when you really “feel” like you are making a difference, or days when you have a “light bulb” epiphany and everything is brought into bright, wonderful clarity.
Don’t get me wrong. I love goosebump experiences, sacrificial service, and putting ideas together for the first time. These are all joyful occasions and they have their place in life, but if I’m honest, most days feel pretty normal, typical, even mundane.
I’ve always had a hard time reconciling everyday activities with a life of following Jesus. Doing laundry doesn’t feel spiritual, and neither does making dinner. And try teaching students who don’t want to learn. That doesn’t feel very spiritual either.
How Do We Honor God by Doing Everyday Things?
God calls us to honor him in all things, or to do all things for his glory (1 Cor. 10:31 and Col. 3:17). My husband consistently encourages me to do all things for the glory of God and to do my work as “unto the Lord.” It’s hard to disagree with him when he references the Scriptures, but honestly, I’ve never really understood how to do this or what it should look like on a day-to-day basis.
For example, several weeks ago, I had a really hard day. When I say “I had a hard day,” it wasn’t because I was sick, or that we were in a financial crisis, or that I just received bad news. In truth, we were just having people over (as we do every week), and I was having a hard time joyfully getting things ready while preparing to be a host. I found out that many of the people who usually come over were sick, out-of-town, or having other company over, so there would be significantly fewer people at our house than normal. For my own selfish reasons, the fewer people that were coming seemed to directly impact the difficulty of the work.
I asked Doug in desperation, “How do I serve people for the glory of God?” What I really meant was, “How can God make serving easier, so I can like it more?”
And I also meant, “Why does serving feel hard sometimes? Surely spiritual things are supposed to feel easy.” And I probably also meant, “How does me doing dishes for the third time today bless God in any way?”
Instead of complaining, what I needed to be reminded of was how Christ’s life is an example to me in all of this, how he shows me that genuine service often comes with great sacrifice.
Jesus lived for thirty years before he began his earthly ministry. He learned a trade (carpentry). He certainly did chores, and he helped his mother and brothers and sisters. He worked with his hands. He ate with people. He gave people food when they were hungry. (He even helped one couple with a wine shortage at their wedding!) He rested. And then, starting around the time of his thirtieth birthday, Jesus spent every day for three years with his followers, talking with them, walking with them, fishing with them, and, even washing their feet.
The fact is that Jesus did many awe-inspiring miracles, but most of his life was spent doing strikingly commonplace things. Often what Jesus did was so commonplace that some of his fellow Jews doubted that he could be a king at all. “Surely a carpenter, who hangs out with fisherman, rides a donkey and talks with people who seem so unlovely couldn’t be the one who will save the whole world,” they protested.
Looking Back and Waking Up
I feel the same way the Jews did. I am constantly protesting to God: “Surely a woman who washes clothes, cooks meals, and hangs out with her baby can’t have any real impact on the world. God, I want to do incredible things, real things, impactful things.”
And then it hits me. When I think back on what has really shaped me as a person, the things that have most changed my life were everyday sorts of things. But that doesn’t make them any less incredible or impactful.
My mom is an amazing mother. I don’t remember the vacations or the Christmas gifts as much as I remember her being there, every day. I remember the detergent she used, and I remember how she got up early and stayed up late every day to keep our house in order. I remember her baking cookies each week for our lunches. I remember her battling with my thick, unruly hair every day. I remember her cooking meals and going to the grocery store with us. I remember her wearing clothes that weren’t new so that her family could have what we needed. I remember her praying with my dad every day for us. She and my dad even sang songs to us every night before they tucked us into bed.
My dad did incredible things as well. He worked driving a snowplow in the winter in addition to his full-time job so that he could provide for us. And then, after he had finished working all night, when I’m sure he was desperately tired, he came home and played with us in the snow. He took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to work every day, even to restaurants with friends who wanted to meet for lunch—not because he preferred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but because we couldn’t afford for him to eat out. My dad made my lunch every day. He mowed the grass at our house. He made sure that our needs were taken care of.
I’m pretty sure when my mom was getting up early to iron clothes for Picture Day at school, or when my dad was enduring snide comments from his co-workers about his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those acts probably didn’t feel very amazing; they probably didn’t feel very impactful. But together all of these things made me feel loved and secure. They changed my life, because they showed me what real, consistent, sacrifice was like.
The Heart of Real Sacrifice
I wonder if real sacrifice is not best displayed in one day of feeding the homeless, or preaching to thousands of people (although these are very important things), but in a life filled with everyday activities that point to Jesus: wiping noses every day when no one will thank you for doing so, cleaning your house every day so that you can invite others into your life, speaking the same word of grace to a friend that you have known for years, not complaining when you have to do laundry for the fifth time in one day, working a job that isn’t glamorous but doing it well because you are working for God and not for the praise of others.
Jesus is a great model for this kind of life. I believe he is honored by consistent, daily sacrifice, and although we may not feel that everyday things are spiritual, they are in fact some of our most spiritual acts of service. God is using these small, simple tasks to work a great perseverance, character, and long-term joy in our hearts (not to mention the hearts of those we share our lives with). As Paul the apostle wrote, "[Serve] with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man." (Ephesians 6:5-7)
Jessica Ponder is a wife and mother to three. She loves reading, singing, baking, and urban walking. In her dreams she is a piano player with time to practice, a gardener whose plants don’t die, and someone who could hang out with the entire world at the same time, all the time.