Down-to-Earth Spirituality


The moon is made of green cheese. At least this was the silly myth began some 500 years ago. Nobody really expected to find Swiss or Cheddar when we began sending rockets to the moon in the 1960s, but I bet many were at least hoping to discover something, well, quite extraordinary—something “out of this world.”

To the disappointment of some, and to the relief of others, moon exploration only revealed that the surface of the moon has a lot in common with the earth. They are both composed largely of rock and dust. Ancient speculation on the radical “otherness” of the lunar surface has yielded to the modern conclusion that, with some exceptions, the moon turns out to be quite “down to earth.” (I might add that the land rover on Mars has photographed far more mountains and volcanoes than little green men!)

Human beings have always been enamored by the extraordinary. Novelists and filmmakers make millions feeding this human longing to escape the ordinary and visit strange, far-off worlds like Middle Earth or Narnia — each filled with bizarre creatures and new realities.

When it comes to Christian faith and spirituality, I believe we find a similar preference for “other-worldliness”.  Before the quest even begins, many draw the assumption that the holy, “heavenly” things of God are to be sought “up there”, far removed from the dust of everyday life “down here.”  It’s as if we must board our spiritual rockets, and blast ourselves into Sacred Space before we can explore the breathtaking “otherness” of God’s reality.

Sacred space and time are often separated from everyday life. We worship God in a church on Sunday and conduct business in the marketplace the rest of the week. We unknowingly find ways to keep these two categories separate for some reason.

The church tends to endorse certain trustworthy “launching pads” for sacred space exploration: prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship, solitude and so on. These wonderfully proven “spiritual disciplines” (which I heartily recommend) can unfortunately gain a monopoly on the spiritual quest and leave those who struggle to incorporate these specific practices into their daily routine feeling discouraged, or even worse, unspiritual.

I believe this way of viewing Christian spirituality is rooted in a myth just as misconceived as the moon being composed of cheese. When we weigh the actual evidence, and examine the nature of God’s reality more carefully, we will discover that faith, much like the moon, turns out to be quite “down to earth.”

God dispels this myth quite clearly when he tells His people

This commandment I am giving you today…is not in heaven, as though one must say, “Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, “Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” For the thing is very near you — it is in your mouth and mind so that you can do it (Deut 30:11-14).

In other words, we don’t need to seek sacred time or space, cross the ocean or turn our heads to the sky. God isn’t found in outer space or limited to the nearest chapel. You don’t need to burn incense, chant, engage in spiritual breathing, or lose yourself in some spirit-induced trance. The purest form of Christian spirituality is the ability to find God’s glorious truth shining through the most basic, routine, down-to-earth activities of life. It is An Everyday Faith.

WRITE IT ON YOUR TOOTHBRUSH

For this reason, God instructs his people to place little reminders of his Holy Law — His divine will — in the most ordinary places:

Repeat [these commands] when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates” (Deut 6:5-9).

Translated into our times, Moses instructs God’s people to “Write it on your toothbrush, hang it from your rearview mirror, or make it your screen savor at work.” God wants to invade every sphere of our life, bringing his saving truth and loving reign into every nook and cranny.

toothbrushThe Lord’s Prayer itself is an invitation to let God’s space invade our own—“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Jesus invites us to share the same unique connectedness to the life of the Father he enjoyed (John 5:19)—always “steeping ourselves in God-reality, God-initiatives, God-provisions” (Matt 6:33 MSG).

Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk, beautifully exemplified this type of everyday faith. Spending much of his life as a cook in a monastery, he has earned the nickname “kitchen saint.” Brother Lawrence kept himself continually in the presence of God “by simple attentiveness and a general loving awareness of God” that he called “a quiet and secret conversation of the soul with God that is lasting.”

His uncanny spiritual mindfulness transformed the most routine tasks of life into events of great spiritual enlightenment. He confused the categories and began finding spiritual fruit where others saw only apples. He saw a reminder of his savior’s broken body where others saw only the morning toast. Brother Lawrence found his life echoing the words of the Psalmist, “I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted” (Psalm 119:10 MSG).

SACRED ANALOGIES & REDEMPTIVE ROUTINES

How might we begin to learn this “simple attentiveness” and “loving awareness of God” that brought such joy to the ordinary activities of Brother Lawrence’s life? How can we begin our own “secret conversation of the soul with God?”  I suggest we simply start with our daily routines.

Let us look first at the ordinary cycle of a typical day, and see if we cannot find in these familiar tasks sacred analogies to draw our hearts and minds closer to Christ. By sacred analogy, I mean finding new (or old) spiritual insight or fresh biblical truth in what is otherwise another meaningless chore. As one tunes their heart and mind to God’s all-pervading presence, pointless tasks are transformed into redemptive routines.

As we explore these sacred analogies of life, we will find that true Christian spirituality is not up in the clouds. It is not only in a church pew. It does not always wear a suit and tie. It is not only on Sundays. It is not limited to a leather-bound Bible. Rather, God’s truth permeates the entire life cycle. His spirit of Wisdom runs through the smallest details of our daily routine—if we only have the eyes to see.

tny2024We draw living water from God’s spiritual well wherever and whenever we become attentive to His loving presence. We find it whenever we sink our hands deep into the soil of God’s saving truth and redeeming grace. We need a faith that gets under our fingernails. We need a faith that is found at all the busiest intersections of life.

Daily Illumination exists in part to provide devotional writings that help illuminate the extraordinary truths of God hidden in the most ordinary tasks and routines of everyday life.  So, keep your eyes open and your heart tuned to the things of God, and you will begin to see His beautiful presence and eternal truths bubbling up from every area of your life.

In the mean time, I will continue reporting daily from the busy intersection of faith and everyday life.

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