cold kitchen floors
Frost covers my kitchen window this morning, clouding my view... and my brain and heart feel a little frosted-over too. Piles of laundry await, the floors feel cold, and my lack of outdoor exercise is starting to show in my attitude. Flitting through my day, busy with continuous and sundry tasks, I wonder aloud - why? The shoes tossed on the kitchen floor (again), the watch that needs a new-expensive-and-hard-to-find battery (again), the kitchen counter that's covered in dirty dishes and food (again), the coat that is lost and can't be found in a hurry (again), and the child who is whining on my legs (again) - these and others threaten to destroy my joy and cause me to wonder why these repetitive and un-glamorous tasks must so hinder my productivity and the things that I could otherwise be doing. My hands, dry from bitter winter air and wind, plunge into the tasks half-heartedly. I actually know that even if all these things were perfect, the human part of me would still find reasons to complain. Knowing I'm not above ungratefulness makes the situation even worse. I pull out the bench to clean up breakfast and I remember again how it really needs to be repaired.
Again I wonder aloud - why? It must have seemed this way to the children of Israel too, the repetitive nature of their nomadic lifestyle threatening to destroy their joy. Could it not just be simple? What a waste of time, to do the same thing over and over again for so many days, for so many years. Wouldn't God have preferred they actually accomplish something, instead of just walking around? Their desert is my kitchen... the tasks are never done, many days are the same. Why?
In her song Painting Pictures of Egypt, Sarah Groves sings
If it comes too quick... I may not appreciate it. Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
I think for me personally anyway, that's part of it. God was teaching the children of Israel obedience, and that's the same thing He's teaching me. Obedience in all things, even the small and mundane... because if I can obey Him in running loads of laundry and making soup for supper tonight, that's teaching me discipline. And that discipline is something I need in order to obey Him.
Beyond that, though, for both myself and the Israelites, our wondering "why" comes as a result of having a mistaken view of God, ourselves, and our relationship with Him. Because I forget who I am, and how everything I've been given is a gift undeserved, I accidentally begin to think again that I am entitled to ease or simplicity. I also forget that this story that I'm living is not a story about me... it's a story about God.
I recently read how both Moses and Jeremiah, when asked by God to speak, responded to God with the question "who am I?". We don't know their tone, but it seems their question was also a form of "why" - "Why are you asking me to do this? What qualifications do I have? Why does my life have to be this way?" Rather than affirming their gifts or abilities, or assuring them that they could do it, or removing the calling, or laying out an entire plan before them for how they were going to make it through, God simply told them each, "I am."
On all the days... the ones I feel capable and qualified and controlled, and the ones that I don't... He is. He is with me in every step I take across the cold kitchen floor, walking alongside me, teaching me obedience and giving me the strength to do all the very things He's calling me to do.
It seems that it would have been rather demotivating to be the older generation of the Israelite people, wandering around with the knowledge that this is how they would be spending the remainder of their days. Sometimes it can feel that way to me as well. I'm really thankful that because of God's tremendous grace, I have a little more to look forward to in life, in general. I can establish goals, work toward dreams... I am far from limited geographically, physically, or spiritually. At the same time, there are days when it feels futile to pursue ideas, ridiculous to have ambition, and unsustainable to do more than the bare necessities. Why create or plan when nothing we do in this life will last anyway?
After I've picked up my Bible and it's loose pages and searched for Truth (again), I remember (again)... it's my love for Jesus that drives me to make good on the gifts He's given me to work with. Romans 12 has been coming up continually in my various studies and books:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
God is. And my body is to be laid out before Him in living sacrifice, and my days are to be ordered by Him and for Him and that is worship. It's truth that I'll have to re-learn and remind myself over and over and over again (and again).
Frosted windows don't block the light into my kitchen, really - they only block my view. And there's not much to see outside... brown, hard, cold, frozen fields. It's possible the lack of visibility is helping my attitude and protecting my heart.
The frosted-over life plan God has for me is His way of protecting me too. The Light is still shining into my life, that's for certain... but He's protecting me from seeing what's ahead, the reason for the repetition, the answers I crave. On this side of heaven, we know that we will always "see through a glass darkly". But the call in I Corinthians 12 is still consistent with the call in Romans 12 and in the rest of Scripture... to love, and to use the gifts we've been given.
On New Year's Eve, Grant reminded me that the children of Israel, even when they were in Exile, were called by Jeremiah to:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29)
We're called to nothing less in our Exile here. My cold kitchen floor can be a place of great redemption and purpose, a proving grounds for God to work in my life, and a place where my life is lived in sacrifice to Him and to my family. Some warmer day the frost will clear on that window, but for now I must choose to see His hand in every tiny little particle of ice, together forming a beautiful picture that I don't understand yet. God is on a mission, writing His story, and we are part of it. What a gift.