By Kate Stevens, Crosswalk.com
When we think of the Old Testament, we tend to think of the high watermarks. The creation of the whole world is a pretty significant one. God spoke light, water, vegetation, and critters into existence. I love Genesis 2:19, “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name” (ESV). I’ve always wanted to be on the committee to name street signs, so naming animals is leveling up.
Noah’s ark and the flood are memorable—and not in a cute, cuddly animals peeking through portholes kind of way. From the ridicule of man year after year, while Noah plods away at his work to the seemingly endless boat rocking, Noah’s story is quickly recalled.
Moses parting the Red Sea—not even considering the numerous allusions to this great story across all of literature, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Moses stretching out his staff to then lead nearly a million Israelites to safety from the Egyptians. Oh—and all of this was conducted on dry ground.
Goodness. There are quite a few more: Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac, David defeating Goliath, the building and abrupt halt to the Tower of Babel, the walls of Jericho, Queen Esther saving her people. There are some exhilarating, gripping, spectacular moments and people in the Old Testament.
Quiet Stretches of Time
But something interesting to think about—the majority of life, the Old Testament included, happens in rather non-watermark moments. More specifically, we see some long periods in the Bible that we can easily gloss over to get to “the good stuff”—slavery to the Egyptians (400 years), wilderness wanderings of the Israelites (40 years), Assyrian exile (70 years), Babylonian exile (also 70 years), and the intertestamental period (another 400 years). Don’t get me wrong. Some really incredible things happened in these stretches—Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego—but I want to focus on what surrounds these.
These sections were not wasted years because we know that our God is of order (1 Corinthians 14:33). We know there was purpose in it all for them as we know there is still purpose in it for us today, for the Old Testament served as a shadow of what was to come in Christ.
We can look at those specific quiet and low event stretches of time and conclude how to handle our own periods of quiet and routine. Where is your deliberate stillness?
The truth about it is this: We can be so conditioned to the fast-paced, easily excitable, ultra-sensory-driven part of humanity that we miss what is available in the stillness. Not many advertisements call us to slow down and embrace the mundane—but instead, we need to buy more, travel more, push our kids to accomplish more, or explore new ways to entertain ourselves more.
Most people don’t even know how to handle the quiet moments of non-activity like waiting in line for coffee or at the doctor’s office. We feel some urge to fill up every moment, so when there is a stretch of nothing but the same routine, then we quickly grow restless. We can end up taking on new responsibilities that we eventually cannot uphold or simply add too many unnecessary activities to the family calendar that just become a placeholder to escape the boredom of the uniformity of our days. Quite literally, we are “amusing ourselves to death.” (Neil Postman)
Three ways to seize the mundane days:
1. Be Set in Truth
While you are in a routine with no particular highs or lows, ensure you are set in truth. Maybe the Lord is providing a respite because there is a valley coming up. Perhaps he is laying out mindless monotony because you’re about to hit a significant peak. If you’ve been alive for a minute, you know that indeed the peaks and valleys do come.
It’s always a good time to read the Bible. But when we are bored of the “same o same o”—we can quickly sidestep authentic sustenance for something fake, artificial, and translucent: namely, social media, Netflix...
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV).
Truth will certainly tell us what we are truly craving and how content or dissatisfied we are with where the Lord has us.
2. Ask the Lord What He Wants You to Practice
It is in the mundane that you can discover accurate results of your spiritual maturity. If you look at your phone usage and see an unreasonable number of hours dedicated to the aforementioned apps of synthetic nourishment, then maybe something needs to be refined. If you get offended or annoyed when someone questions how you spend your time, then maybe something needs to be refined.
I’m posing only one simple question here: what—and be honest about your own practices here while simultaneously ready for the Lord’s response—would the Lord have you practice during your ordinariness? Qualities like contentment, patience, steadiness, and joy are all merits I have struggled with when having stretches of the same routine and schedule for weeks and even months: wake up the little people, feed and clothe them, get them to school, work at my job, get them home, feed them, drive them to practices, get them in bed—and repeat and repeat and repeat.
If we aren’t asking the Lord to reveal which virtues we need to practice, then I fear we can suddenly find ourselves walking in the vices of envy, grumbling, surliness, and anger. Think about Abraham and Sarah waiting for a son.
“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:19-22).
Month after month, as the couple aged, the monotony rolled on of no son, no heir, no offspring—can you even imagine? It was during these mundane years that “he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” And we know how their story ends—well, he’s Father Abraham. He had many sons; I am one of them, and so are you.
3. The Lord Called Us to Work—So Get Dressed and Clock In
We see in Creation how God’s economy is structured: six days of work and one day of rest. Often we get this backward. I would venture to say that our culture has this really upside down with the next gadget promising more leisure and less work for all. As believers, we must be conscious of our work and especially our hearts behind our work. Children are a lot of work! And they aren’t even aware of how routine their lives are until they are much older—so really, it’s just our own hearts we must orient so the Lord can sanctify our ingratitude and restlessness.
Work was mandated before the fall of man. It is one manifestation of glorifying the Lord. Galatians 6 tells us that we reap what we sow. If we entertain grumpiness rather than joy and contentment in our seasons that lack sensational or unique experiences, then we shall reap and eat exactly that: petulant soup.
Instead, we should feast on God’s Word, seeking his guidance of what to walk in and work at so that we can remain faithful in all seasons and contexts he places us in. I want to walk like Abraham—honest about my life situation and limitations, but unwavering in God’s promises and ever-growing in my faith.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom, and with the help of the Lord, that is her hierarchy of work. Beyond this, she works with the youth and children at her church and edits as a freelancer. She enjoys reading, writing, running, cooking, and practicing thinking pure and lovely things.
After being unsure if they ever wanted children, the Lord eventually blessed Kate and her husband Clint after nearly three years of waiting. They welcomed their first daughter in 2011, another daughter in 2013, and yet another daughter in 2016. Kate considers this her most time-consuming, emotion-full, sanctifying, not always pretty but trusting in the Lord’s plan, and blessed work. Stuck in a house with four females, her husband Clint consistently reminds Kate of her identity and union in Christ.
You can read more of Kate's work here.