Analogical Thinking
Carrying On

The Quotidian v. The Next Big Thing

Coming home, I said I have a big brief to write at work this week.  To which my wife said she had a lot of briefs -- to wash, that is.  Such is the nature of our diverse callings at this time in life.  We had a laugh about that, and then a discussion about what we really dreamed of doing (neither of us are that hip on briefs, of whatever kind).

We had just heard a sermon in an unfamiliar church this morning about the importance of dreams, not the nocturnal kind but the dreams about what you'd really like to do with your life -- you know, like write a best-selling novel, live on a ranch in Montana, be a missionary, something really significant.  Using the example of Jacob, the pastor emphasized the importance of dreams, how we need to pursue our dreams if they meet three tests: Do they honor God?  Do they give us joy?  Will they bless other people?  As he said, if the dream meets this test, there will be obstacles, but where God calls He will also provide the means to overcome obstacles.  It was a part of a series called "No Regrets."

Haredwork This was all well and good, and I was on my way to dreaming, when the quotidian impinged.  If you don't know the word, the quotidian is the thing or things which belong to the everyday, the commonplace, the mundane, if you will.  Like tomorrow, I'm not writing briefs but vacuuming the whole house.  I need to pay some bills.   I have a few errands to run.  You know, these are not a part of the dream, not what I get excited about, and yet they must be done.

So by the end of the day I find myself not fully agreeing with the pastor.  Sure, some people like Billy Graham or Bono or George Bush or Martin Luther King have some big dreams, and some big things to do.  But many of us have the quotidian, the everyday, and need to be faithful in the place God has us, whether as employees, spouses, parents, deacons, or whatever.  Frederick Bueckner once said that "[t]here is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to either recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly" (Listening to Your Life).  God help me see it.

Kathleen Norris wrote a short book called The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work."  After months spent living with Benedictine monks, she says that these common, ordinary tasks "all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down.  Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are. . . as human beings.  But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated."

There may not be a big dream.  The "next big thing" may be that you get to do the dishes tonight, vacuum the house, launder the clothes, do the "grunt" work in your job.  God's dream for me, for us, is bigger than our big dreams.  He messing around with who we are.  He's making us new creations.  It doesn't get much bigger than that.