The Daily Mess – Oswald Chambers & Battling it Out in the Ordinary
How often do we recognize the miraculous in our humdrum lives? Everyday? Every so often? Once in a lifetime? I’m a big fan of Oswald Chambers and have been ever since I purchased My Utmost for His Highest when I was in college. He has a way of stripping away the unnecessary and handing you, the reader, the bold, sometimes uncomfortable truth. One of my favorite things about Chambers is his recognition of the importance of living out faith in the ordinary things, in the day-in day-out life on planet Earth.
“We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life – those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.”
As a mother of two children, one of whom has special needs, my daily life centers around the tending, and often there’s a lot of it. It’s easy to look at life and decide that our struggles are uncommon. Sure, they’re unique to us. But uncommon? No, I don’t think so.
The idea that struggle itself isn’t the norm in life is just faulty thinking. And Chambers nails it when he says, we’re made for the ordinary things. We prove our stamina and strength in those things. Cleaning up the same mess you’ve cleaned for days, maybe years. As a caregiver, those messes aren’t always just spilled juice.
I’ve mentioned my mom before at Bella Verita. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s twelve years ago, which was two weeks after my son was born. I was a new mother, with a lot of fear and trembling about how to mother my new child, faced with helping to coordinate and provide care for my mother, at the same time. I remember praying and asking God, how I was supposed to serve him when life like this happens. I felt like life was on hold and I wasn’t able to serve him, because of the tending. It took a while for it to sink in; I was right where I was supposed to be. The tending was and is the serving.
In Exodus, when Israel is lead by God out of their captivity in Egypt, they watched God move on their behalf. Miracles of deliverance all around them. I can’t imagine they missed it. Seems like it’d be pretty difficult to miss all the plagues that swept over Egypt and bypassed their own family. Not to mention the pillar of fire and cloud leading them on the path to freedom. After witnessing this, they still panicked and grumbled when they came to what appeared to be the end of the trail and standing before them was a body of water – the Red Sea.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still,” Moses tells them. Most of us know the story. At God’s command, Moses stretches out his hands over the sea. And God moves on their behalf.
Their God, the Lord –
drove the sea back with a strong east wind, so strong the ground was dry enough for them to cross safely through, with a wall of water on either side of them
threw the Egyptian army into mass confusion and jammed the wheels of their chariots, allowing the waters to flood back into the space it had left, sweeping the entire enemy army into the sea.
Pretty spectacular, if you ask me.
Everyday we face battles in the ordinary things of life. Sometimes, as Chambers’ says, the ordinary is the place where the battle can be the fiercest. We don’t like the ordinary battles. We want the spectacular. Win those battles and it’s really something. Sometimes, we are called to face the spectacular, but even in those times, the battle isn’t ours.
Whatever your battleground, we, like Israel, are called to be still. Look, Moses said, the Lord will fight for you. The stillness isn’t motionless. Israel had to walk forward in obedience. God didn’t cross the sea for them. They had to use their own two feet. Often, like Israel, I want to stand at the shore, at the end of the road, in those times when all seems lost and I wonder does this daily mess matter. I, like Israel, have to leave my fear and grumbling behind. Be still, walk on and leave the battle in His hands. He’s got it covered. I just have to clean up the mess. And really, compared to the battle, the mess isn’t so bad.