Regular life is the backdrop of most of our days. Here we have laughter and disappointment, cooking and cleaning, working and tasking. All common, usual, ordinary. These routine and ordinary moments create a mortar that holds our lives together. Here we get a sense of stability as we do everyday life.
If regular life acts as the mortar, then the irregularities of life would be the stones. These are the major accomplishments, the milestones, the traumas that change the look and shape of us. Here we find much emotion and transition and life-altering decisions.
Of the two, stones are more interesting to write about. Mortar is, well . . . the filler. It doesn’t have the same pizzazz as stones with their varying shapes and sizes.
But if I write only of the stones, of the major life happenings, my writing will be sparse. There is a lot of regular life happening in the mortar. These are the commonplace moments that most of us pass through without much thought.
Something in this week’s reading for the High Calling Blogs Book Club got me thinking of these commonplace moments. Julia Cameron said this about common moments in The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life:
Valuing our experience is not narcissism. It is not endless self-involvement. It is, rather, the act of paying active witness to ourselves and our world. Such witness is an act of dignity, an act that recognizes that life is essentially a sacred transaction of which we know only the shadow, not the shape. As we attune ourselves more and more closely to the value of passing moments, we learn that we are something of moment ourselves.1
Within the humdrum, commonplace routines are moments of life. Life is sacred. We are living this life, each moment worthy because we are made in the image of the One who is worthy beyond compare.
Some days it doesn’t feel like we are anything special as we go about the filling tasks of everyday living.
But the apostle John tells the early Christians otherwise: “Beloved, now we are children of God . . . it has not appeared as yet what we will be” (1 John 3:2). What we are now, what we see now, is not all we are or all we will be. And the apostle Paul explained that “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Dim mirrors reflect merely the shadow—not the shape—of our lives and who we are. We know only in part the value of the commonplace. If we could see more than the shadow, if we could know fully, the commonplace would be found to hold more holy moments than our hearts could bear.
Cameron calls us to be attune to these moments, to extract from them the value that can’t be seen as yet. I don’t want to think of the bulk of life as merely filler. I want to approach life as singer and artist Sara Groves has phrased it: I’m going to “look for the holy in the commonplace.”2
1. Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, 1998), 50.
2. Sara Groves, “Just Showed up for My Own Life.” Add to the Beauty. INO/Epic, 2005.
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