mun·dane – adjective \ˌmən-ˈdān, ˈmən-ˌ\
: dull and ordinary
: relating to ordinary life on earth rather than to spiritual things
My toddler-son has a pretty limited vocabulary right now, but he knows one word for sure: more. It’s almost a guarantee when he’s finished with breakfast, within minutes he’s strutting back to the table and shouting, “Mooooore peeeeease!” His big, blue smiling eyes are hard to resist, but since he is all me in the personality department, I know his desire for more all too well. He’s tasted something good, and now ten bites are not enough. He’s a ravenous little thing, and he comes by it honestly.
For most of my life, I’ve wanted more. More money, clothes, food, success, affirmation: the list is endless. I am all but finished with a project before I’ve mentally moved onto the next thing, the next life event. It’s gross to say it aloud, but my default is hustle, discontentment, and dissatisfaction. More used to equal better until the pace was too much.
Two years ago, when I was seven months pregnant with our first child, our lives were unrecognizable to me now. Almost every night, I leaned into our fridge to find something that could barely count as dinner before running off to the next place. Clutter filled our countertops; our fridge was empty from weeks of forgetting to grocery shop; and I was exhausted. We were living at an unsustainable pace. With two demanding, people-oriented jobs and opposite work schedules and lives, our marriage was starting to suffer. Not in big, obvious ways, but in quiet and passive ones. We were silently depriving each other of companionship.
Those were my first years in ministry, and I found them difficult. I started to dread being around people. For a major extrovert, that should have been a big warning sign, but we didn’t make time to see it. I didn’t have the words for it then, but I was craving a mundane life. I was desperate for a little bit of boring. I wanted some rhythm and normalcy. I deeply needed space for ordinary, dull parts of my day. We were drowning and in need of reprieve.
Before those years of chaos, I associated mundane with dull. I thought that an adventurous life meant seeking the next thing, running and chasing for more. I didn’t know that the thing that would give us more, what we needed so badly, was to make space for the mundane. I’m learning that when my soul starts itching for more, it’s not more that I usually need. I’m finding that my itch for more is usually an alarm that I need to wake up and see what’s actually right in front of me. Our marriage didn’t need more money, more activities, or more stuff; we needed space to live in the mundane together. I didn’t realize that God wanted to speak to me in the mundane rhythms of my day if only I would make time to listen.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes about this in her book An Altar in the World. She writes, “The practice of paying attention is as simple as looking twice at people and things you might just as easily ignore. To see takes time, like having a friend takes time. It is as simple as turning off the television to learn the song of a single bird.” She continues later, “The practice of paying attention offers no quick fix for such weariness, with guaranteed results printed on the side. Instead, it is one way into a different way of life, full of treasure for those who are willing to pay attention to exactly where they are.”
The practice of paying attention in my mundane is becoming a way of life. At a snail’s pace, I am learning how to find God in my kitchen sink, and then again in my loads of laundry. My prayer life as a working mom looks nothing like it used to, but it’s there in the mundane. It looks like praying while washing coffee mugs in the mornings, asking God to be present in my day and help me be a more patient mother, wife, friend, and coworker. Mundane. It looks like have spacing to stop and listen to neighbors on our morning walk, getting to know the people who live within twenty feet of me while praying for their hurts and needs. Mundane. It looks like praying for my son as I wash his hands from an afternoon of playing outside, asking God to help him continue to grow in stature and maturity. Mundane. It looks like praying for friends while cleaning our guest room—the cleaning indicates someone is actually using it, and that we’re making time to welcome people into our home. Mundane. It looks like praying for our missionary friends in Burkina Faso while changing my son’s diaper in the morning, looking up at the world map that hangs above his dresser. Mundane.
I am discovering that mundane doesn’t mean uninteresting or dull. It means that the slow, rhythmic parts of life might actually be things God intended for us to experience, to trudge through on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. To my surprise, it’s in the mundane parts of my day that I have the space to pay attention and practice gratitude for exactly where I already am.
WORD COUNT: 862
Anne Wilson serves as a writer on the communications staff at Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis. She blogs about faith and life at annemwilson.com, or you can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @annemwilson.