By Cindy Koch –
So much of our daily lives cycle around the same old thing, day after day. Laundry, dishes, fixing the car, going to work, walking the dog, the mundane routine seems like it spins around and around, never resolved and never finished. It takes me back to a time when my babies were very little. I found myself caught in the mundane, the everyday routine. I would wake up, feed the baby, change her, do some dishes, feed the baby, change her, clean the bathroom, feed the baby, change her, and go to bed. Every single day. But nothing much changed.
And this was a little frustrating. Wasn’t life supposed to be exciting and thrilling? Wasn’t I supposed to be happy and thankful? Instead, I had a sinking feeling that the mundane, the everyday, unexciting tasks were holding me back. The boring routine began to leave a bad taste in my mouth as I craved something more. Maybe I was doing this all wrong. Maybe I needed to find a way out of the mundane to find happiness and contentment.
Even the walk of a Christian is not always easy or thrilling. Many times we find ourselves going through the motions day by day. But God is so big and amazing—there must be something more than just a mundane life. So what are we missing? Is the mundane holding us back from happiness? Maybe I’ll read a book to teach me to move beyond the mundane existence. I’ll look for a retreat to put me back on that mountain-top experience instead of wallowing in the mundane. My search for hope and life looks more like an escape from the routine to shock me back into a purposeful life.
Recently I did escape the routine of everyday life to hike the John Muir Trail with my husband. Each day we were met with challenges beyond what I anticipated. The first week the trail led us over Donahue Pass out of Yosemite National Park. We worked so very hard to get to the top—out of breath, muscles burning. Finally we reached the top, looking over the edge, looking back along the hours of sweat and toil. But soon after a little break, we would continue along the trail, heading straight down the mountain again. I became increasingly mad with every step I took down that end of the trail. What was all that work for if we were just going to go down into another valley? The repeated steps upward were met with just as many down the mountain. And there were so many more passes to come. I began to resent the trail that led us up and down like puppets. What was all our work for?
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes agrees with our frustrations. He was given wisdom beyond any man, and so he searched everything: Wisdom, Foolishness, Pleasure, Hard Work, he tried it all. But all things turn up mundane. Vanity of Vanities, he says. All things are vapor, breath, shadows. Nothing is solved; nothing lasts. Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains. He looks around at everything under the sun, but contemplates the very same thing we wonder: Is there any meaning here?
This is a scary thought, isn’t it? We try not to dwell here for too long. We try to ignore that we are trapped in the middle of a cycle of seasons of which we have no control. It’s too hard to face the fact that we don’t affect change of God’s world and his plan as much as we’d like to. It’s offensive to call our action, our path in the world a shadow, a breath, vanity, because no one wants to really hear that about themselves. We want to hear how successful we are, how much better we are now, how much we’ve overcome.
But even if we can admit our walk here is mundane, we are not really changing anything. Our work and pleasure all wind up in the same place. We still haven’t answered our question. Is this meaningless? Is your work and pleasure and wisdom and foolishness without meaning on earth? Does it not matter at all where you go and what you do? Sure, it’s the same thing over and over. It’s just a shadow that will disappear, but it is not meaningless.
But just because these things don’t last, because we are caught in an endless cycle under this sun, doesn’t make them meaningless. Because you know, I know, life under the sun is not where our real hope rests. These endless seasons of birth and death under this sun is not the whole story. We know about a new creation where we will be. We have been promised a life everlasting beyond this. We can recklessly call all of this vanity—shadows, not to be trusted, because we know something else has come. We have been given a greater story about the reality of this creation. Christ walking, healing, loving, and dying in the mundane was not meaningless. You walking, healing, loving and dying in is not meaningless. You are the meaning in this mundane—for those sitting right next to you.
Here, in your mundane, is where God cares for his creation without you even knowing it. It would be great if he would make us satisfied, or give us a feeling of purpose, or tickle us with a warm glow of emotion. But the mundane is not about us. Our work and toil don’t count more, or set us aside, or make us better. God uses all of it to care for His people.
Today, you are free from worrying about if you can find your meaning and purpose in all the things that busy your time—work, play, family, grudges, loneliness, wisdom, pleasure. I’ll save you the trouble: You can’t. It’s a shadow. It won’t last. So you are free to trust in what is everlasting—who you are before the Almighty God right now—forgiven, loved, an heir. So now you just get to enjoy the gifts God gives to you and through you.
On account of Christ, this mundane Monday is but a breath. Enjoy it. Because Jesus gave you eternal life to look forward to, the frustrations of this day are just a blink. Enjoy it. Eat, drink, and take pleasure in your toil, because God is using you to care for someone else. Enjoy it. You are the hands and mouth of the Almighty God—the communication of the eternal word in this passing world. Enjoy it. No matter what happens, you are forgiven and free because of our Savior. Enjoy every bit.