A Sacred Practice: Finding God in the Mundane

“But we have this treasure (knowledge of the glory of God) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2nd Corinthians 4: 7-10

Clay jars are fragile and imperfect…like me.

Some clay jars at Cafe Mexicali in Ft. Collins. We were there to help our church raise money for their Czech mission.
Some clay jars at Cafe Mexicali in Ft. Collins. We were there to help our church raise money for their Czech mission.

A quick word about depression: It’s not something you can just decide not to have—it’s not a deficient clay jar, either. It’s an intangible fog that gathers in front of your eyes and distorts reality. Sunshine helps. Exercise helps. Working helps. Getting out of your head and focusing on life around you helps.

And…medication is a tool (Praise God) that helps level life’s playing field.

This verse soothes my troubled spirit—I am afflicted, but not crushed. I don’t despair of life because Jesus is my hope; but don’t be fooled—I am not healed. It’s Paul’s thorn, but in my flesh. We all have one, and the more we try to handle it ourselves, the more impaled we become. We can do some things to help ourselves, but we are fragile jars of clay.

I am a fragile jar of clay—indwelled with the Spirit of the Creator God who spoke the universe into being. I am a redeemed and forgiven jar of clay that worships the resurrected Messiah. I am a Christ follower. And I’m a sinner. And I’m fragile. And I crack under pressure.

But God whispers to me through bird songs in the morning. He proclaims his glory through the blooming irises and spouting greenery. The mountains cry out his sovereignty as I drive west to the local Costco. The mountains stand immovable in the distance, dark violet bruises against the horizon.

My hectic teaching life is done. It was a life I loved. It was a life that consumed me. Every breath was accounted for—every step measured and calculated. The responsibility sat heavily on me like it does for most teachers. Our early morning thoughts during coffee scatter to the day ahead. As soon as we park our cars in the school parking lot, we’re on stage. It’s a performance—teachers have to be “on.” I was “on” all the time. I never stopped.

I graded and planned until 9 p.m., eating dinner (cooked by my orphaned husband) at my computer or desk. Bed at 10 and then back to work mode at 5:30 a.m. I took Saturday mornings off, but worked through Saturday afternoon and evening.

I had no Sabbath rest. No “off switch.”

Now it’s off. The switch is off, and I’m learning to be still and know that God is beside me.

Being still is so hard for me. Slowing down and not feeling the anxiety to be perfect…to be “on” all the time is hard for me. I’m such a fragile, cracked jar of clay.

Brother Lawrence—a 17th century French monk—found peace in the simplest of tasks. He wasn’t one of those intellectual monks–but a manual laborer who became disabled over time, but never lost sight of his center: the presence of God—the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He found that conversing with God continually—regardless of how menial the task—eventually leads us to “ . . . find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.” Whether he was peeling potatoes, working the garden, or kneeling in prayer, he practiced the presence of God.

Discipline. Being a Christ follower means being disciplined. No, not performance-based. Not works-based (then we could boast about our self-aware holiness). It means disciplining our minds to focus on the things of God.

Practicing the presence of God means honoring Him consciously in every tedious task we do.

I’m learning to practice God’s presence. I still get up at 6 a.m., but I savor my coffee. I enjoy the quiet time with my husband and puppy. We discuss the news (including the puppy) and remind ourselves that God knows and He alone is our hope.

I like walking my dog in the morning or afternoon or whenever. I like the sound of my shoes on the gravel and hearing trucks in the distance. And seeing the mountains. I always love seeing the mountains–they create the sense of wonder Margaret Feinberg talks about in her book, Wonderstruck.

I find pleasure in opening my Bible and preparing for my Bible study on Revelation. Or writing in my journal and recording my prayers. Or reading a Psalm aloud to Him. Praising Him quietly. Alone. Unmoving. No breaths accounted for or steps calculated.

Apron on and ready to chop!
Apron on and ready to chop!

Even chopping vegetables for dinner is fun. I enjoy mixing my own spices and using a mortar and pestle to crush them and open up their aromas.

Pulling an avocado apart and marveling at its giant pit.

I love spreading my arms out in the sun and letting its warmth soothe my joints and pain.

My depression lifts…but it will return. It always does. I am a fragile jar of clay, after all.

A bit cracked and worn, but still indwelled by God’s spirit. Still forgiven. Still loved. Still useful.

Practicing the presence of God.