This week my small group started looking the book of Jonah, prompting me to pull Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson off my shelf and flip through these well worn pages. In it he talks about our “everyday ordinary places and the sense of shaping eternal purposes” and how often we separate them. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I come to the end of a week and I wonder where the time went. Did I do anything of value? Have I made any difference or merely filled my days?
This was a very messy week for me – a more on that another time—where often the daily goal was reduced from the Big Picutre to the small task in front of me.
A passage from Peterson’s book has been a source of encouragement and I find myself returning to it. He shares of a dream he had in which the wife of a friend wrote a national best seller called Lists. In the dream:
I opened it and started to read. It was a compilation of lists. That’s all, lists. Grocery list, laundry list, fix-up list, Christmas card list, bill-paying list. No text, no narrative, no explanation, no commentary – just lists.
When I woke, I knew immediately the meaning of my dream: lists are best-seller material. In my hurry to recover the essentials of spirituality in my life—a sense of the presence of God, a spacious leisure for savoring grace—I had thrown away the raw material for it, my list. The items that I thought were interfering with the holiness of my vocation were the very materials of its holiness.
He then gave some examples of things he thought were worthy of his time and things that were beneath his dignity and how he had treated them as waste.
That rings painfully true for me. I do not mind giving my time to things I deem worthy, important, or visibly fruitful. But those parts of life that are mundane, boring, or require a lot of time for little to no glory, no thank you.
Peterson reminds me that, “This is my Jonah work: giving loving and leisurely attention to the everyday geographical details of my Nineveh life and at the same time living in the urgency of the eschatological.”
Seeing as I am rooted geographically in a world that involves phone calls, answering emails, lesson planning, attending meetings and spending time with people, I can sometimes wonder what I have accomplished with a morning, a day, or an entire week! On the surface it doesn’t look all that glorious or important. But this is my Nineveh life and those tasks do not get in the way of my life being holy, they are the path that I have been placed. They are not hindering me, as I so often believe.
What on your list is hindering you?