“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering. We shrink from pain.
We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong, and able for active duty, and when the heart and hands are full of kindly service. When we are called aside and can only suffer; when we are sick; when we are consumed with pain; when all our activities have been dropped, we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything. But, if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most of our work. We are burning now, and shining because we are burning. . . . Many want the glory without the cross, the shining without the burning, but crucifixion comes before coronation.
“The glory of tomorrow is rooted in the drudgery of today.” (Streams in the Desert)
I began the day praying, “God, I want to know you,” followed hard after by the question, “How in the world will I know you today?” Had I been in some remote location on a spiritual retreat of some kind, I may have answered the question with thoughts from Bonhoeffer or Chambers or any of my other favorite authors who operate as spiritual mentors. But this was a normal week day, and my deep seated desire to know God soon gave way to mundane demands of the day—washing machine repair, taking out the trash, writing thank you cards to partners, database entries to make, reports to assemble, dishes to wash, beds to make, ad infinitum. Not exactly the setting one might expect as especially conducive for experiencing the divine.
Do not confuse the extraordinary moment for knowing God:
“One of the great snares of the Christian worker is to make a fetish of rare moments. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you say—‘Now I will always be like this for God.’ No, you will not, God will take care you are not. . . . If you say you will only be at your best, you are an intolerable drag on God; you will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously inspired. If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never come back until you do the duty that lies nearest, and have learned not to make a fetish of your rare moments.” (Oswald Chambers)
Abraham Lincoln touts some pretty good theology when he states, “The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is why he made so many of them.” The same applies to common experience; our days and nights consist largely of repetition, tried and hackneyed cliches. How can I know the Father in the run-of-the-mill that demand the majority of my attention? Were we created for mountains or valleys? God either remains silent most of the time, or He speaks regularly and I simply fail to recognize His voice. What we fail to grasp at our own peril is that the humdrum is exactly where we meet God. Lower your gaze. Stop looking for Christ in the clouds and you will find Him waiting at the convenience store, next door, or in your own home. Prove useful when you are uninspired, and you will know God in a measure that exceeds expectation.