I mentioned a concept briefly in a previous blog, and I thought I would just touch on it a bit deeper here. It deals with a somewhat archaic* word I wish we would use more: Mindfulness. To be mindful, full of mind, that is, to have our minds and souls conscious and aware, attuned to the things around us, to the things of God. For nothing is truly ordinary in God’s created order.
The use of the word “mind” itself is nuanced. “To bear in mind” is to take something into account. “To have something in mind” is to have the intention to act upon something. “To mind the store” is to be in charge. “To come to mind” is to remember. “To have an open mind” is to consider without prejudice. Mindfulness, in my mind (i.e, “in my opinion”), includes all of these connotations—a purposeful openness to the possibility that God is graciously in the midst of all the absurdity around us.
What does mindfulness require? Foundationally, it requires abiding with our Heavenly Father (John 15). Jesus modeled this continually throughout his life. He was constantly abiding in his Heavenly Father, connected in prayer and thought through the Holy Spirit so that he was always in step with the will of the Father. There is also an awareness of our environment, of the beauty of creation around us and the people God brings into our lives. And this is often a subtle and understated thing, more in our peripheral vision than obvious and foreground. And finally, we must walk into each day with an attitude of anticipation, a heightened spiritual expectancy that God is in every moment and may act in it in some mysterious way.
To risk mindfulness is a transcendent act, for we dare to see the spiritual beyond the material. And as such, it is counter-intuitive to the twenty-first century lives we live. In our busyness and preoccupations, we train ourselves to ignore the ordinary. Our eyes and ears have dulled to the sights and sounds of the profoundly sacred. We don’t see the miracle that is the wind or the rain, the sunrise and the sunset, the quiet steady pulse of creation.
But the Apostle Paul issues us a reminder to be mindful: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) And the Psalmist joyfully proclaims: “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” (Psalm 104:24 The Message) Clearly, we are missing out on something. For creation shouts loudly the glory of God. But we do not hear it. Our ears have dulled to the Small Still Voice.
We grapple with a paradox: The ordinary is sacred, and the sacred is ordinary. The ordinary is sacred in that God created and actively sustains all things through his omnipotence, and permeates all places with his omnipresence, and reveals His glory all around us. The sacred is ordinary because God acts in all things and at all times. By His continuing and ever-sustaining will, atoms spin and heavenly bodies pull at one another. Every act of creation—from the sun that gives life, to the trees that feed from it and create oxygen, to the air that fills our lungs—is an act of His active grace, and a reflection of His divine beauty.
One of the most ordinary things I do each day is washing the dishes. But the sink to my kitchen faces out into our backyard, where birds sing in my neighbor’s cherry tree and squirrels occasionally scurry along the vine-covered back fence. There is so much beauty—so much Glory—going on beyond my kitchen sink. But I don’t see the glory. I only see the dirty dishes.
We must open our mind’s eyes, and squint into the brightness of creation. We must train ourselves beyond our conditioned myopia. We must dare seeing a God whose glory permeates the universe.
[*Note: As noted in the sign, “Mind Your Head” is a saying that is intended as a warning to duck under low-lying passages and doorways. I think it’s a UK thing, as we don’t seem to use it here in the US. Can any of my UK readers please verify that for me? Thanks!]