Joy in the Ordinary
Lately, I have found that I struggle to truly enjoy the everyday tasks of life. Instead of remaining present where I am, my desire is to rush through whatever I am doing so that I can move on to something more pleasant or exciting. Whether it is washing the dishes, tidying up the room, or running through Latin vocab the night before before class, I am finding it difficult to maintain an attitude of joy when I am working. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with moments that seem mundane. Rather than recognizing these moments as opportunities to serve my wife and others, and I treat them as if they are merely boxes I need to check off, in order to get on to the next thing.
I know that in many ways, this is simply a part of our culture. More and more, it seems to be a struggle for people to remain present in moments that fail to live up to their expectations of entertainment. I find this troubling. I don’t want to simply make it through all of the day to day experiences of my life. A large portion of life is made up of doing things that are not particularly exciting to do, but that doesn’t mean those moments aren’t worth experiencing. I want to be able to recognize God’s beauty and purpose in all of the moments of my life. When I tune out moments that are difficult, awkward, or even just boring, I’m choosing not to recognize God’s holiness in each moment.
Part of why this has been on my mind recently, is because I have been thinking about the ways in which I want my students to approach their tasks. I genuinely wish for my students to view their studies in a way that shows a true joy for what they are doing. When my students fill out a grammar worksheet that they may find repetitive, I want them to do so with the knowledge that working with integrity and a good heart is just one small way that they can point to God’s glory. I want them to recognize and respect authority when they are being reprimanded or corrected, not out of fear, but out of an assurance of love that stems from God. I want them to live worshipful lives, and I believe that part of a worshipful life is performing even the smallest of tasks with a joyful heart.
Recently, my wife Kristian and I lost water in our apartment for several days while some necessary work was being done on the pipes. Thankfully, given that we live in such a privileged area, this was no more than a minor inconvenience. We were able to get by well enough with the help of some kind friends, and the showers at our gym. What it did mean though, was that doing the dishes and cooking elaborate meals was no longer a possibility. For the better part of ten days, I was relieved of my normal responsibilities of managing the kitchen. At first, I was thrilled to swing by Cookout for my Kristian and I on my way back from work, and just throw away the egregious amounts of styrofoam and tin foil that was left when we were finished eating. Pretty soon though, I started to miss the creative outlet that cooking provides for me. Even though I may not feel like doing it every day, cooking stimulates my brain in an important way that is healthy for me. Likewise, cleaning the kitchen after dinner is one of the ways that I can most regularly serve Kristian. Beyond just being a necessary chore, it is a small action that I can take to show my love for her. I should complete duties with a thankful heart, rejoicing in the gifts that I’ve been given.
I think we often overlook the importance of small, menial tasks. They can often be the richest parts of our day, and they provide us with opportunities to bless one another. So I hope that within our school we are modeling this for all of our students. Real and lasting joy comes from God, and doing work with a happy heart is one way that we can honor Him.