“It’s in the small moments that life is truly lived.” Marion Roach Smith, The Memoir Project
Two years ago my husband decided to quit his job before we knew what job would be next. It wasn’t sudden or flippant or careless, but it was risky and all arrows pointed to fear. You would think, then, that this major life change would have kept me up at night wringing my hands and rehearsing what ifs. There were a few nights like that, to be sure.
Mostly, though, I look back on that period of our life with gratitude and wonder. Because instead of a fear-filled time of worry, those days were actually some of the most peaceful I’ve experienced before or since. The answers to the big questions we were asking? Well, they were beyond us. We couldn’t force a next step or draw up an agenda.
We knew what we needed to leave behind but didn’t quite know what we were waiting for. And at the time, that was okay with us.
Lately I’m learning something about myself, my faith, and my everyday life: it’s easier for me to trust God with the big things than it is for me to trust him in the small ones.
The big things are so obviously beyond my control. But those everyday normal things? Well they are covered with my fingerprints.
I pick them up, handle them, set down what I don’t think I need, pick up what I’d like to control. My everyday moments often seem like they are moving past me on a conveyor belt of ordinary.
During the repetitive minutiae of the daily is when my trusting soul seems to fall asleep in the brush, beneath the shade of the familiar trees and the warm landscape of everyday life. It isn’t that I don’t believe the small things are important; it’s more that I forget to care about how important they are.
We’ve all heard some version of Marion Roach Smith’s words, that the small moments are where life is truly lived. Maybe our minds immediately go to the wink across the crowded room, the snuggles before a bedtime story, or the weeknight cookouts.
But our days aren’t only filled with the beautiful ordinary.
If it’s true, that the small moments are where life is truly lived, then we have to count all the small moments, not just the pleasant ones. The days also have small moments of rejection, humiliation, disappointment, regret, misunderstanding, heartache, and pain.
These are our moments, too.
How we define “small moments” is crucial to seeing, embracing, and learning from our whole life, not just the pretty parts.
These small moments can offer hints of a greater reality just like the lovely ones do. But in these, the gift can be harder to find.
A lot of us can probably relate to this inability to live well in the small moments. Perhaps one reason is because, as Eugene Peterson points out in his book, The Jesus Way, “the world gives scant attention to what it means to really live eternal life in ordinary time.” I agree.
It’s easy to fight for a cause when the stakes are high — freedom, rights, life or death. It’s way harder to fight for moments, to fight to see meaning on a Tuesday afternoon around the homework table. Because at the end of it you don’t have anything to show for it beyond a kid who has a finished math worksheet and let’s be honest, who cares much about that?
Yet if the world gives it such little attention, maybe we need to crane our necks away from the cities of the world and force our attention to the benches in our own front yards.
I don’t mean we have to create meaning and elevate each moment to the level of The Most Important Thing Ever. The truth is, most moments are boring. In the scope of life, they may not have much impact on the course of things or the decisions we make.
But learning to live well in ordinary time isn’t a call to elevate moments, it’s a call to draw close to Christ.
What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.
To learn to live well in ordinary time is to keep company with Christ on our simple Tuesdays and remember how he delights in keeping company with us.
It’s to understand that the life of Christ dwells within me as I walk into the coffee shop, the courtroom, the office, the classroom, the shed.
To live well in ordinary time is to believe in the deepest part of who I am that wherever I go, I don’t go alone.
That means when a word is spoken to me in love or criticism, in comfort or indifference, in truth or in falsehood, first it must go through my friend Jesus before it gets to me.
Always standing between me and others is the presence of Christ–beside and within me.
Let’s dig deep, not to create meaning where there isn’t any, but to see Christ, our companion, where he actually is, not where we wish he was.
Let’s gently poke our sleepy souls, refusing to wait for a big event to finally wake us up.
Let’s stop running from ordinary time but begin to sit in the midst of it.