On Finding Beauty in the Mundane

Bailey Cowen is a 1st year intern at UNC-Wilmington

I am a person who loves routine. I like to know the hours of my local coffee shops, what aisle of the store the pasta sauce is in, and what the parking situation will be. If you haven’t noticed, I really love to have a plan for my life – to know the what, when, and why. I really love routine, but I am learning that I sometimes hate the mundane rhythms of daily life.

Something I have been learning in this first year of my internship is what it means to live a mundane, but faithful life. Somewhere along the way, American evangelicalism or popular culture sold us (or more accurately, me) a story that in order to be truly great, I have to do amazing things for God. Living in a performance-driven culture turned my faith into a game show, and life into a competition. There is an expectation to be doing things for God instead of being with God, a pressure for everything in my life to feel like it has meaning and significance.

You’ll imagine my frustration when I realized about 3 months into my new job that most of my days were at best mundane, and far from glamorous. I spend a lot of time sitting across from college students and asking them questions. I spend a lot of hours reading books on theology, talking to donors, and meeting with my campus minister. I go to the grocery store. I prepare for bible study. I walk my dog. I do the dishes.

On and on and on. The problem is, I was failing to see how those daily rhythms are glorifying to God.

Honestly, I grew to be so frustrated by the repeated cycles of daily life. First I got angry at myself. Why didn’t I have more realistic expectations? Why aren’t amazing things happening every day, right in front of me? Maybe I am just doing this job wrong? Am I a bad intern/friend/employee? Is there something wrong with me?

Then I got angry at God. Did you bring me to this place only to leave me? I didn’t sign up for this! Why do I feel so alone all the time? Where are you, God?

And then? Then the kindness of the Lord broke through my cyclical, self centered internal monologue.

In John 13, before Jesus washes the feet of his disciples (the feet of the men who would run away in fear, betray him, and deny him), these words are written in verse one: “And having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (ESV). He loved them to the ends of their unfaithfulness, to their weariness. He loved them in their doubts, and He loved them in their fears. He loved them when they were bored of the (sometimes unspectacular) work they were called to do. He loved them to the end. He was steadfast to the end.

So too does Jesus love me to the end of my limits.  Sometimes, when my body is weary, I think I forget that our sweet, gentle Jesus had limits on His human body too.

Jesus does not look upon my weariness with disgust. He loves me to the end of it.

The kindness of God breaks in on my frustration with the mundane rhythms of daily life. Here is where I find comfort: God is just as glorified by me making breakfast as He is by me being the best intern I can be. And best of all? He is not disappointed in me for asking these questions, and is so pleased to meet me again at the foot of the cross, hold my weary hands, and walk beside me.

Hope breaks through the cracks of my heavy heart, like flowers through concrete. I fall back down upon my own insufficiency, and the Lord’s abundant mercy, and I find hope in a Jesus who was not just fully God, but also fully human. He knew what mundane moments felt like, and he made them glorious. He blesses the unimpressive trinity of the mundane, the routine, and the unspectacular.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get frustrated. I still am walking this out. I still struggle daily to find contentment where God has me. Jesus gave me what I longed for, just in a different way than I expected. He meets me there, and meets you there too. He loves us to the end.