- Look: see the world through the word
- Listen: discern His voice in daily life
- Engage: enter in
- Embrace: love the One
- Trust: live the blank
- Thank: find fulfillment
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
The beautiful sacredness in the life you are already living
Part 2 of an interview with Kari Patterson,
Author of Sacred Mundane
When life seems ordinary and unexciting, it is easy to slip into the mindset of being stuck and in need of a change. In Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy (Kregel Publications), Kari Patterson shows the reader the key to change is already in her hand once she realizes what is holding her back. “In 2 Kings, we read, ‘Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.’ He had so much going for him, but his leprosy threatened to steal it all,” explains Patterson. “I ask readers to consider their own lives and prayerfully simmer down their own life into a sentence. So often we’re vaguely aware of the areas we want to change, but we don’t take the time to narrow down and identify the one thing hindering us most. Identifying the one thing helps us see more clearly how God wants to use our mundane to make us more like Him.”
Patterson points readers to the truth: In each unremarkable life lies an opportunity to see, know, love and be transformed by God, who meets everyone right where they are. Instead of stepping away from real life to find God, Patterson equips women with a six-step practice to move forward and meet Him in the humdrum moments of everyday existence:
The first step is to look. Most importantly of all, we must learn to use the Scriptures as a lens through which we see every situation. Until we see as God sees, nothing will make sense. We will go through life stumbling and fumbling until we learn to see all things through the truth of God’s Word. In my opinion, this is the biggest deficiency in the American church. We don’t know God’s Word. We’re shallow. We go through the motions of religiosity and church attendance, but we don’t truly know the Word of God and let it soak into our souls and permeate every part of our being. God’s Word isn’t the end all — He is — but it is through the Scriptures we learn to see as He sees.
Look through the Word to see everything else. As we study the Scriptures every day, we don’t evaluate them, standing over them as a judge; we receive them. That is, we don’t overly concern ourselves with some big, new revelation no one has seen before. We don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew or do the latest Bible study. We simply need to sit like a child at His feet, opening up God’s Word and determining we will do whatever we read, no matter what. Our aptitude for the Word matters less than our attitude toward the Word.
Q: How do we listen to and discern God’s voice in our daily life?
First by getting into the Scripture so we know what He sounds like. I know the sound of my husband’s tires on the gravel outside our house. How do I know? It’s a different tires-on-gravel sound than any other car, and I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve learned to discern it throughout time. There are a lot of voices out there: the world, the enemy, my own thoughts and emotions. The only way to discern what God’s voice sounds like is to practice listening and see if it lines up with the Word of God. The more time we spend in the Word, sit quietly and listen in prayer, obey what we hear, and take steps of faith to do anything He asks of us, the more we increase our ability to hear from Him.
Q: Step three in the process is engaging. How exactly do you engage with God in the monotony of life?
At any given moment throughout my day, I have the choice whether I will engage and enter in or draw back, escape, and check out. We can do this in many ways: by ignoring a difficult situation, avoiding conflict, not dealing with a child who needs discipline, getting on my phone and mindlessly scrolling through social media, sitting and vegging in front of my TV shows, eating, shopping, or staying so busy I don’t have to deal with hard things. But when we stop, slow down, and engage, we step into the hard, mundane, and ordinary moment. We learn to commune with God in the midst of it, asking Him how He wants us to respond to any given situation. We have an opportunity to see Him in the midst of the ordinary, but not if we’re checked out on our phones.
Q: Who did God put into your life to teach you about loving people? What did you learn from opening the door and letting her in?
God placed a young woman on our doorstep who was homeless, addicted to drugs, and struggling with severe mental illness and PTSD from abuse. I let her in, and she lived with us for a time. I learned loving people is messy, and we don’t always do it perfect. However, that isn’t the point. I also discovered addiction and homelessness are complex issues. Most importantly, I learned the only answer is the gospel and about the love and accountability of gospel community through the Church. People can never become projects, and loving others always includes a cost. Jesus paid the greatest cost ever out of love for us, and He calls us to love others in that same generous, selfless, costly way.
Q: Why is it hard for us to trust God and His plans for us?
It’s hard to trust God’s plan for us because we can’t see the end! We are control freaks, especially in this culture where we have (or think we have) so much perceived control. For example, most of us aren’t farmers with huge variations in crops from year to year. Instead, we get a regular paycheck, often a fixed salary, and have five-year plans, big buffers on our savings accounts. We have climate control in our homes and cars and have gates and locks on our doors. We like to make our own plans so we feel in control. Trusting God is hard because He usually doesn’t give us much advanced notice. In fact, He often makes it look as if everything is disastrous before He swoops in and fulfills His promises. He does this so our faith, more precious than gold, will be tested and found pure. He knows the greatest joy, peace, and transformation happens when we learn to quit trying to be God and let Him be all.
Q: What is the final step of discovering God in the mundane?
The sixth step is to thank, and that’s most certainly the culmination of the Godward, worshipful life. We all know we’re supposed to be thankful, and perhaps we’ve written gift lists and tried to count our blessings. Still we struggle with this nagging feeling of disappointment and frustration. Often we think if we’re truly spiritual or if we’re good Christians, then we won’t feel disappointment. We sing, “You’re never gonna let me down,” but if we’re honest, we often feel disappointed and let down by God. What do we do with that disappointment? In this chapter we discuss two cycles, the disappointment cycle and the fulfillment cycle, and look at the difference between expectancy and expectation. We look at the lives of seven godly men and women in the Scriptures who all experienced profound disappointment as part of God’s glorious plan for their lives. Here we learn the secret to seeing God’s fulfillment, learn to cast aside our flimsy handmade expectations, and learn to squint the eyes of our souls to see God in the darkness.
Then we finish our time together in the book by emphasizing the importance of letting our lives be poured out in worship to God for the sake of others. Transformation is really all about bearing fruit, and fruit was meant to be picked. The purpose of fruit is not to preen. Trees don’t take selfies of their fruit. The purpose of fruit is to nourish others by the beauty and nutrients. When our lives are transformed, the world is blessed. Sadly, we often divorce these two aspects of the Christian life — sanctification and mission. I’d insist they are one and the same. As we are sanctified, we are more effective in carrying out the mission of God, and as we carry out the mission of God, we are sanctified, made more like Christ. This book isn’t about naval-gazing, self-focus, or being all we were meant to be simply for the purpose of looking better. The point is freedom, purpose, and joy, for the glory of God and the good of the world. The point is to display the goodness and glory of God to a world in desperate need of His hope. That’s the point.
Q: Tell us more about the nine-session small-group Bible study included in the book.
The Bible study can be used by individuals or as a group study. It is great for a summer book club, meeting informally in someone’s living room, or a church’s women’s weekly Bible study (large or small). All that’s needed is included in the book, so it’s ideal for a low-cost, easy-to-facilitate, nine-week study.
Learn more about Sacred Mundane and read Patterson’s Sacred Mundane blog at www.karipatterson.com. She is also active on Facebook (sacredmundane) and Twitter (@sacredmundane).