God of the Sacred Ordinary
Imagine waking up in the morning, turning your eyes to the light creeping in around the window shades, and seeing God. Imagine pouring your morning coffee, watching the tiny air bubbles swirl and loop and drift, and seeing God. Imagine staring up at the leaves on a windy day and the shadows they cast on the grass, and seeing God.
Searching for the Sacred
Is the idea so far-fetched? It may feel that way. We don’t tend to see God in the ordinary, and so we don’t search for him there. Instead, we move through life by trying to jump from one major God-revealing event to the next, as if we were leaping across a stream by hopping stones. But what about the water between the stones — the hushed banalities of day-to-day living that are literally right underneath us? We rush passed the commonplace to get to the sacred. But what if we stopped? What if there is a calling to find God in the ordinary, to see the sanctity and revelatory power of the water between the stones?
Every fiber and fleck of creation is saturated with the revelation of God, his divine nature, his character.
As it turns out, there is. Scripture doesn’t come right out and say this, but it’s there, especially in passages such as Psalm 19:1–4 and Romans 1:20. Every fiber and fleck of creation is saturated with the revelation of God, his divine nature, his character. In the end, there really isn’t so clean a line between the ordinary and the sacred . . . because the ordinary is sacred. And the gift for those who work at finding God there is well worth the effort: an enhanced awareness of God’s presence.
Finding God in a Maple Tree
Let me give you an example. In autumn, the leaves on the maple tree outside my window start to change colors at the tips. A flaming red-orange seeps into the green middle; a whisper of color leads the fading transition. Every leaf is a tiny country waging a quiet war with the winter. They are losing. Some of the leaves are turning a dull yellow, slowly wandering into the inevitability of autumn. The cold air, you see, combines with the dropping temperature, halting the food-making process in the leaves and breaking down the chlorophyll. As the chlorophyll breaks down and mixes with other pigments in the leaves, the other colors emerge, like voices entering a discussion they’ve long been listening to.
The autumn leaves show me the Trinity.
As I stare at this process outside the window each year, I find it striking that God has made the world this way. The word “perfection” comes to mind when we hear the word “God,” but we often think of perfection as static. With the autumn leaves, we find a different perfection, a perfection of change, of process, of movement. This is the world that reflects God (Romans 1:20). So God must, in some sense, love not just the static, but also the dynamic. And because the leaves change in relation to the weather and the light, God must also love the relational: the connections in the environment and the sundry ecosystems of the world. But since God is a simple being, we must say that God is what he loves. The things he loves are images of things more beautiful in himself. So, we must also say that he is static, dynamic, and relational. And when you think about it, that’s just another way of saying that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17), the active and living speech that governs and sustains the world (John 1:1; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), and the divine Spirit through whom all things are related (Acts 17:28). The autumn leaves show me the Trinity.
The Reward of Slowing Down
Now, the spiritual reward in slowing down to perceive the world in this way is that we are drawn into the presence of God, for the world is constantly speaking about him, telling us what God is like. All of creation, all of reality, is revelation, and that is what revelation does. The leaves outside my window are not mere leaves. They are testaments, little words about the God who spoke the world into being and maintains it by the Word of his power (Heb. 1:3).
No one, I think, promenades through the particularities of each day seeing everything like this. We have pockets of realization, moments of clarity that remind us of our faith. And the more often we slow down to see God in the ordinary, the more readily our minds make connections between the ordinary and the sacred. And the more sacred the ordinary becomes, the closer we are to communing with the God who is ever-present.
It’s no small thing to watch the world. In fact, doing so might be the most extraordinary experience we have each day.
For more, check out Finding God in the Ordinary.