Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Wasted Day

Wal-Mart repintado
Have you ever had to spend a whole day taking care of the mundane matters of this world and then felt guilty about it?  I have.  Paydays are especially bad.  I have to drive 20 minutes to the bank to get our cash, then go to one or two or three stores to help stock the house back up with milk, toilet paper, yogurt, and coffee.  With two or three young children in tow, these errands take hours.  When I go to bed at night, sometimes I feel like I've wasted a whole day.  I apologize to God for not being more holy, and try to do better the next day.  

I've recently read a book that reminded me that a day is only wasted if I'm not following hard after my Savior, and that I can pursue him in every activity of my life.  I downloaded A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God because it was free, but I'm glad I read it.  It's a dense book, and I didn't agree with everything he says, but the final chapter, "The Sacrament of Living" really spoke to me.

Tozer speaks of the tendency that Christians have to divide our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular.  We feel satisfied with ourselves when we are doing our spiritual disciplines like praying, attending church, and reading our bible.  When the ordinary activities of life like grocery shopping, working, and household chores intrude, we feel uneasy, as if we should apologize to God for not doing sacred activities 24 hours a day.  Tozer says this is a cause of Christians missing out on the peace God has promised to us. 

He also notes that the "sacred-secular antithesis" has no basis in Scripture, and he uses Jesus as a model.  Christ, he says, was completely pleasing to God in everything that he did, and yet he lived as a human. The gospels take no pains to hide Jesus's humanity.  He got hungry and tired, and he was never uneasy when doing human activities like eating or sleeping.  He even worked as a builder before he began his public ministry.  

If Jesus was able to live as a human with such grace and confidence, how can we do the same?  Tozer gives us the answer.  We must "lift every act up into a living kingdom and turn the whole life into a sacrament."  Say what?  Thankfully, our author gives us a more specific answer: We have to practice living to the glory of God with every act we do.  He says we must offer all our acts to God and truly believe that he accepts them. We must meditate on this idea as we go throughout the day, and pray about it often. The "sacraments" like communion and baptism, are not the only ways to please God.  As we go through our day to day activities, we can send up short prayers to Him, dedicating the work to God and reminding ourselves that we are doing all to his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).   

The way I see it, this will have three results.  The first is that it will help to steer me clear of sinful activities that cannot be pleasing to God.  If I'm thinking about following him all day, praying and dedicating all my endeavors to him, then I will be less likely to begin gossiping or reading impure books or yelling at my children.  

Second, if I am sending up these "thought-prayers," as he calls them, all day long, then I actually am involving myself in the spiritual discipline of prayer!  I can pray whilst in the middle of doing housework.  Even if I am helping my daughter with her homework, we can send a short prayer up to the Father, dedicating the work to him.  It isn't so much what I am doing, but how I am doing it that makes the difference.  "It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.  The motive is everything.  Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act."  Sanctifying God in my heart with every action can only bring me closer to Him. 

Finally, I can let go of the burden of guilt.  If Jesus had to sleep, then I don't have to feel guilty about going to bed early when I'm tired.  Jesus had a job, I don't have to feel shame at spending hours of my day doing my job as long as I dedicate it to him.  

The only way I can have this unified kind of life, though, is if I desire to follow God with my whole heart and actively pursue him.  If I go through my entire day of errands without once thinking about God, then perhaps my day really is wasted.  However, if I pray before I head out the door, or as I'm driving to the bank, thanking God for his provision, and letting him know that I am dedicating my day to Him, then even a simple Wal-Mart run can be a spiritual activity.  

If I start to doubt, I need only remind myself that the disciples went into town to buy food (John 4:8), Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and Jesus used ordinary activities to teach some of his most powerful parables (Luke 15:1-10).

Is today a day filled with ordinary activities for you?  Transform them.  Before you wash another dish, say a prayer dedicating your work to the Lord.  Going to work?  Remind yourself that you are working for someone far greater than an earthly employee. Do all your ordinary jobs to God's glory, and see if you don't feel less fractured.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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