I have hiked miles upon miles over unforgiving terrain, walked knife-edged ridges covered with ice and snow and scaled vertical cliff faces hundreds of feet above valley floors, but the mountain before me made me shudder.
It was only about two feet tall, and it stood on my bed.
Clean laundry waiting to be folded.
It always seems daunting…and boring. I’ve tried different methods to help. Sometimes I turn on a sermon to listen as I fold, at other times I crank the music, and the chore becomes a dance party of one. Whatever distraction I choose, ultimately, I just have to dig in and fold. Nothing really remedies the mundane nature of it.
You likely have those things on your list too. Cleaning the bathroom. Changing the oil. Paying bills. Scrubbing stuck-on food from pans. Waiting in line. Drudgery. Routine. Monotonous. Mundane.
I was thinking of this when I sensed God prompt a question in my heart, “What is your favorite moment from the life of Moses?” I thought for a brief moment.
“When he faced off against the Egyptian magicians, that was pretty cool. Oh, Mt. Sinai, I mean, c’mon, how incredible was that?! And the Red Sea. That is a major game-changer.”
Then again, that same prompting, “How about Midian?”
No one ever says, “I love thinking about those forty years Moses spent out in Midian; that is my favorite part of his story.” For good reason: we don’t know much about that time at all. Exodus chapters 2 and 3 give us a little information. While the people of Israel were held captive in Egypt, Moses married, had a child and worked as a shepherd (Exodus 2:21-3:1). That is all we know.
For years Moses tended the flock. Collected the strays. Watched for predators. Counted sheep (literally). Washed his hands, ate dinner and did the whole thing all over again the next day. God finally broke the monotony with a revelation of Himself at the burning bush.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:1-6).
How many burning bushes do you think he saw during those four decades? Well, one. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is a burning bush every day in your life, and you only have to find it. That is simply not the case.
Most days aren’t burning bush days. They are regular bush days.
To be sure, we welcome the burning bush moments. We rejoice when God reveals Himself clearly and profoundly and powerfully. But consider this: your regular bush moments are more, well, regular. We make the mistake of living from burning bush to burning bush instead of living fully in the day of the regular bush.
Did God use this time to prepare Moses for the deliverance of Israel from Egypt? Yes, absolutely. It is true that before God uses you to the fullest, you must trust the desert experience as part of the process. Joseph had his desert in a prison cell. David hid in the wilderness and evaded capture for years. Paul lived in Arabia for three years after his conversion. Jesus went through the trial of temptations before beginning public ministry. God prepared Moses in a similar way.
But we can run ahead with our thinking at times and look so intently for what is to come next that we miss what God wants to do today in the mundane, desert monotony. He is just as much at work in you during your plain desert days and regular bush moments as He is when He parts your sea and speaks from the fire.
He is in the washing of dishes and the weeding of flower beds and yes, even in the folding of laundry. He is in the mopping of floors and the rotating of tires and in the baking of chicken nuggets for the little, but picky, eaters. Each moment has meaning, for even in monotony He is there and can be glorified in it. This is why we find the oft-quoted but difficult-to-practice command: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We give Him glory, bring Him glory and make Him known…in each moment of every regular bush day.
The regular bush days are no less holy than the burning bush days. Pastor Chuck Swindoll relates that one of his friends was fond of saying, “God moves among the casseroles.” It is precisely among the “casseroles,” in those everyday and commonplace moments, that God does some of His deepest work in us. My regular bush days, as uneventful and plain as they might be, are designed by God to make me into the likeness of Christ and create in me a desire to walk more closely with Him. This is why the mundane details matter.
A final thought…
God spoke to Moses from the bush at Horeb (another name for Mt. Sinai). God met Moses again on that same mountain some time later, gave the commandments and displayed His glory.
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up (Exodus 19:16-20).
Later in the Exodus account, Moses and the elders ascend the mountain to meet God again.
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:9-11).
It is easy to give Him glory in our eating and drinking when He is clearly present before us. The drink is sweet on a burning bush day.
But there are other days. There was another meeting years later on Sinai, but this time, it was Elijah and God.
Elijah had single-handedly faced off against the prophets of Baal loyal to the evil queen and watched as God answered his prayer dramatically by fire and then by rain. But then, the expected repentance of the royal family did not come, and Elijah sank into despondency. Being exhausted from spiritual battle and wearied by powerful ministry, Elijah made a journey…
During his desert time, Elijah ate and drank before God as well, but this was no banquet laid out in grand display, but simply some bread and a jug of water divinely provided for a battle-worn prophet.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19:4-8).
Maybe Elijah wanted God to take him back to the beginning, perhaps he thought that a trip to Sinai would give him perspective, maybe he hoped that God would speak to him in dramatic fashion similar to His revelation to Moses, or maybe, just maybe, this prophet of God who stood by the covenant made so many years earlier was going to contend with the Lawgiver Himself to plead his case upon the very ground the Law was first given. Whatever the reason, we know that Elijah walked some two hundred miles from Beersheba to Sinai for this meeting. And God does not disappoint; He meets Elijah.
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper (1 King’s 19:11-12).
A low whisper. A still small voice. A thin sound. A gentle blowing.
Not in the wind that shattered the rocks, in the fire that scorched the earth nor in the earthquake that shook the foundations of the mountain did God speak, but in the stillness.
He shows Elijah that He is working, ever working, even in the quiet. When He seems most absent, He is near.
He is there.
He is there, in your life, moving among the casseroles, in the waiting room, in the mountains of laundry and dirty dishes and throughout all your days of the regular bushes untouched by fire but still ablaze with His glory.
“Little things come daily, hourly, within our reach, and they are not less calculated to set forward our growth in holiness, than are the greater occasions which occur but rarely…Moreover, fidelity in trifles, and an earnest seeking to please God in little matters, is a test of real devotion and love.”
– Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803)
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”
–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
One thought on “The Ministry of the Mundane and Monotonous”
Wow. Thank you for the reminder. I feel as though much of the past 6 months has been like a “burning bush” so-to-speak for me in my decision (and follow through) to move my son and I across the country. But now that we are here, and feeling settled, I feel a little lost. I know that the decision was right, I am at peace with the move. But I am not sure what to do now…and feeling a little like Mary in ‘doing’ a lot because I don’t know what else to do. Anyway, my point is, I have forgotten that He is here. He never left.
I hate the dishes. You can do the dishes, I’ll do the laundry. Fair?