The Joy of the Mundane

In my recent reading, I’ve been reveling in R. Scott Hurd’s When Faith Feels Fragile: Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering (Pauline Books & Media, 2013). The chapters are short (read-in-5-minutes short) and yet, Hurd packs a punch. I’ve dog-eared and highlighted and longed to reprint large sections.

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Today, in light of the Advent coming and a feeling of general discombobulation in my world (I am in no way ready), I thought I’d share a chunk from a recent chapter that resonated with me so much that I almost tore it out. (No, really).

This is from chapter 31, “Do the Dishes.”

The Journal of Mundane Behavior was a scholarly journal featuring articles that considered the ordinary and routine activities and experiences that fill our days. Its issues explored the significance of shaving, running errands, the table arrangement and background noise of a neighborhood café, and the making of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One cover featured a photograph of a man standing in his backyard with a pooper-scooper. The sociologist who created this journal did so because he was concerned that his professional colleagues were so preoccupied with the extreme and the unusual that they virtually ignored the day-to-day stuff that fills most people’s lives.

The same might be said, at times, about our attitudes toward our faith and our approach toward our religion. We can give so much attention and ascribe such great importance to the exceptional and the extraordinary, while that which is seemingly small, trivial, and routine is written off as insignificant or unimportant. We can be awed by accounts of miracles and admire those who make heroic sacrifices—as we should. At the same time, we can fail to appreciate the importance of daily discipline, quiet perseverance, and honoring one’s responsibilities.

[…]

[W]e too can make a disconnect between “religion” and “everyday life.” In so doing, we can easily forget that God is present in all times and in all places, including in the midst of our daily routines. As a consequence, we pass up the many wonderful opportunities to encounter the Lord and grow in grace. As Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a seventeenth-century French Jesuit, once wrote, “You seek God and he is everywhere; everything proclaims him, everything gives him to you.”

But how do we do this? How might we encounter God through the seemingly dull, daily routines of life? How might mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, folding the laundry, cleaning the floors, waiting in line, or commuting to work become grace-filled moments? It’s easy to dismiss these times as wasted, chores to be done, or “necessary evils” to be endured before we can move on to more exciting and more productive things.

[…]

When faced with the prospect of being faithful in “small matters,” sometimes the world will tempt us into thinking that they don’t matter because we don’t matter. We’re just not important enough. At other times, our pride will insist that we’re too important to do them. Such things are beneath us. But God doesn’t think we’re unimportant, and he doesn’t want us to be puffed up by pride. Instead, he wants us to do what we do with pride because what we do does matter. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us, we can sweet a street like Raphael painted pictures, Michelangelo carved marble, and Shakespeare wrote poetry.

There’s no escaping the fact that our lives are filled with mundane tasks. But they need not be something to simply endure with clenched teeth! Because if we approach such tasks with a joyful heart and do these ordinary things extraordinarily well for God’s glory, they can be true occasions of grace. Very rarely do we have opportunities to do great things for God. Yet every day presents us with many small things to do for God, who invites us to embrace them cheerfully. And should we be faithful in doing these small things, we may well find our faith becoming great.

So what small mundane things can you embrace today to make your faith great? I think there’s a pile of unfolded laundry nearby…


Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom and author whose nose is probably in a book if she’s not scraping something off of her shoes. Her latest book is A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. Check out all of her books at http://sarahreinhard.com/writing/my-books/.

Visit Sarah’s website: http://sarahreinhard.com/


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5 Comments

  1. Yes, I agree. Sometimes we get so caught up in the bigger and better, what’s new and different, that the ordinary and regular are overlooked. Some of the very mundane things to be done really make up our lives.

  2. This is appropriate on so many levels and all stages of life. I’ve heard it said that those who retire often feel useless. Now that my mom is there, the message came through my oldest daughter – she feels useless. The only time she’s happy is when she is needed but she doesn’t realize that all of the mundane things she could do would bless those around her, that they are needed and her doing them would be useful.
    In all of our stages of life, we are needed and useful if we focus out and ‘do all things as unto the Lord’. Carry on, all of you faithful!

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