When I first arrived in Turkey many moons ago to live our family’s new life, I was the mother of a two-year-old. A few months later, I became pregnant with our second-born. Two years later, I became pregnant again, miscarried; then six weeks later, got pregnant one last time with our third-born. Most of the years we lived abroad, I was either parenting a toddler, dealing with the unexpected times of pregnancy, nursing a newborn, or some combination of it all.
Of course, that’s not why we moved 6,000 miles from our home turf; to change diapers and “worship the porcelain god.” But that’s what I ended up spending quite a bit of my time doing. I’d meet my tutor at a tea house several days a week to learn the language, I shopped at the local markets, I’d walk to the nearby park to practice language with locals while the kids played, and I got to know our neighbors—but otherwise, my life was at home, doing pretty much the same mundane stuff I was doing as a new mother in the States.
I found it odd that God brought me all the way to the other side of the world to, well, raise little kids and manage a home.
In fact, I found it more than a little odd. There were many days when I was frustrated at my supposed time-wasting, emotionally exhausted from feeling unused, and quite honestly, a bit bored from it all. At least living everyday life in my own culture meant access to English television and coffee with old friends. What on earth was I doing with my days?
Paul Stevens says in Down-to-Earth Spirituality, “If God has come in the flesh, and if God keeps coming to us in our fleshly existence, then all of life is shot through with meaning. Earth is crammed with heaven, and heaven (when we finally get there) will be crammed with Earth. Nothing wasted. Nothing lost. Nothing secular. Nothing absurd…. All are grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.”
About a year into our life in Turkey, a fellow American friend confided this in me: “I’ve become so frustrated at my lack of usefulness here that I wonder if God brought me all this way not to use me, but for me to better know Him.” Our lives’ daily liturgy, when focused on how grandiose, or useful, or even productive they might be, can become the bastion of frustration when we end our days not having accomplished much more than the humdrum of life.
My friend’s comment changed my perspective for the remainder of our time abroad, because it reminded me that no matter where I am or what roles I’ve been given, the point of my life is not usefulness, but in knowing God and enjoying Him forever.
This realization is nothing short of revolutionary. Tasks like laundry, nose wiping, errand running, and job clocking stop becoming a burden, and start becoming ingredients for our spirituality—a real one, where we relish in the fact that we are God’s and God is ours, regardless of our usefulness. Even when we’re given “big” tasks, like living cross-culturally or serving in leadership, these roles become less of a pressure to perform and more of an assignment to better know Him when we acknowledge that all of life, big and small, is crammed with heaven.
We are His children, and just as we don’t love our own children because of how useful they are to us, neither does God’s love for us depend on how productive we are in our days. He is passionately wild about us, even when the majority of our waking hours are spent in the everydayness of it all.
At the end of our life, we won’t be able to look back and remember most of the hours of our days, but we’ll remember what those hours produced. My hopeful goal is intimacy with God, knowing Him as a true Father and friend. Don’t fret or curse your mundane tasks. They’re grist for the mill of a down-to-earth spirituality.
Tsh Oxenreider is the author of Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. You can find her spearheading a community blog about simple living at The Art of Simple, or on Twitter at @tsh.