The other day some dear friends of ours moved across the world, on their way from the UK to South Africa. That day, on my one day off in the week, I scrubbed mould off the ceiling and walls of our bathroom. Cleaning is one of my least favourite things to be doing. I couldn’t help but compare my day to theirs.
As I sprayed and scrubbed I thought of all their excitement and the novelty of everything they will experience, remembering our feelings as we got on the plane coming to Canada. Yes, there’s loss in what you leave behind but a whole new chapter begins. So many new things to learn, people to meet, new house, different food and places to shop for it, different scenery – lots of challenges for sure, and lots of joy and dramatic answers to prayer along the way.
Along with that there is still the stuff of life that follows us no matter where we are in the world.
There’s work, a family to feed, washing to be done, school work to keep track of, a house to clean, groceries to buy and on and on it goes. Different scenery, but same old chores when all is said and done. Times when there’s a lot of busyness, but we seem to be getting nowhere fast. Maybe I should re-phrase that, times when we seem to be getting nowhere visibly fast. Our culture is so much about appearance and measures of success, but when you’re a christian God’s measure of success is the state of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).
Sometimes life seems a little too full of the mundane chores. Sometimes it appears that nothing is happening with us and everything is happening in other people’s lives. The people doing the dramatic things can seem to be the ones who are living the adventure, and they are, but so are we when we’re in the midst of ordinary life – just getting on with it. The danger is that if we’re looking for the next big thing we miss the people and things given to us for right now and forget to be thankful for it all too.
God asks us sometimes to take big steps of faith, things that bring us into the spotlight, but he uses every situation in our lives to shape and mould our character. Whether living in the middle of a dramatic change, going through tough times or just in the ordinariness (is that a word?) of life, God is with us. It’s in the valleys and hidden places that he prepares us for the mountaintops. That rolls off the tongue so quickly, but valleys can seem unending.
In times when I feel left behind it helps me to think of the story of Joseph in the Bible (Genesis 37 onwards). God gives him great dreams then he’s sold as a slave by his brothers, then wrongly accused and thrown into prison and forgotten. Yet he keeps on serving and finding favour where he is, until Pharaoh has a dream and Joseph is propelled into the spotlight. All those years where things didn’t appear to be happening must have been tough. Sometimes he must have doubted that God had ever spoken to him, and at the same time he’d probably held on to the dreams waiting and praying for the time when his situation would change. He didn’t just sit around and wait for it though – he got on with things right where he was.
We may not be in an ancient Egyptian prison or anything as grim as that, maybe just in a place where we didn’t think we would be either physically or spiritually.
As I scrubbed the mould off the walls in our house that day, I was conscious that God is bringing to light some of the mouldy thoughts and attitudes that have grown in my life and doing a bit of Holy Spirit scrubbing off of those. The way these things have come to light is by being in situations I didn’t expect.
What about that promise you gave me or that dream you put in my heart, Lord?
Let’s just deal with your pride/jealousy/bitterness first, shall we?
Okay. Ouch. In your time Lord.
Wherever we are in our lives, whether in a valley, a mountaintop, in the shadows or out in the open, let’s trust that God has us where he wants us and be willing to serve him right where we are. We may not be anywhere significant in anyone else’s estimation, but we’re always right under God’s spotlight. Sometimes he’s dealing with things in our lives, sometimes he’s prodding us to step out a bit further, sometimes all at the same time – all in his mission to shape us to be more like Jesus and to take us into the world on our doorstep that so needs the hope that we have.
You can read about our friends’ adventures in my friend Pam’s blog, Five Go Further.