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When Christians think about experiencing God, we often recall dramatic, life-changing events. We may have felt divine comfort in the face of a family member's illness, a sense of higher purpose in a service trip to help the poor, or an awareness of inconceivable grace when the test comes back with an A on it. These spiritual highs may last for hours, days, weeks, or even longer, but eventually routines slip back to normal. Daily life exists in a very secular world. Five days of intensive studying, meetings, and work easily squash thoughts of Sunday's sermon. By the end of the week, we feel like just another brick in the wall rather than God's beloved children. In this reality, how can we truly be Christians on an everyday basis?
I heard one answer to this question almost two years ago in a sermon at my hometown church. The pastor argued that his career was no different from a plumber's in how it related to God's calling. Some people are called to have different roles, but they all have the opportunity to glorify God in what they do. In fact, he told us, everything we do, 24 hours a day, can glorify God if we focus on doing it for that purpose. I lit up at this. God, after all, is about exalting the humble, so why couldn't humble actions be exalted as well? But it didn't really change anything. Doing laundry, even when I pretended I was glorifying God in how neatly my socks were folded, was still boring and meaningless. It didn't cause me to throw out the notion as false, but there had to be something more.
Unsurprisingly, something more came from the Bible. On the night of his arrest, Jesus prays for his disciples. He speaks of them being sent into the world but not being of the world (John 15). In, but not of…This took me a second. If we are not of the world because of the Holy Spirit living within us, connecting us to God's Kingdom, why are we here? Skip backwards a few gospels and Jesus has the answer: to be "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). Now, these verses are probably not new to many Christians. They are great to read, but when we close the Bible we still return to a secular world. Should we then escape the secular world entirely? I would argue we cannot. Even monks devoted to lives of contemplation have daily routines that can gradually lose their meaning with ceaseless repetition. Therefore, in the words of the theologian Karl Rahner, "if there is a way to [God], it must be through my daily drudge."
Being in the world but not of it allows us to experience God in daily life. Not because it provides an escape, but because it adds a purpose. Not to place ourselves above the secular tasks that the world demands, but to perform them differently - with that love, humility, and hope that overflows from the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. We are in the world because we do worldly things, and we are not of the world because we are oriented heavenward as we do them. Not preoccupied with the drudgery of the task at hand, but in constant openness to God, allowing His light to shine through us to the world in what we do. Even if it is just the laundry. This is a way of experiencing God different than listening to a sermon on Sunday morning or witnessing evidence of His work in nature. This is not God reaching down to us. This is us reaching up.
Aidan O'Neill is a freshman business student from Gig Harbor, Washington. He enjoys climbing trees, making forts out of pillows, and riding Segways. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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