Gold in the Laundry: Finding Value in the Mundane

By M.R. Conrad, reposted from Rooted Thinking. (2020)

Bathe the children. Cook three square meals. Weed the garden. Repair the fence. Beat back the vines of the encroaching jungle. Unclog the outhouse. Patch the hole in the roof. Help the neighbors. Such was the life of missionary Mary Slessor. Far from the conveniences of her homeland, this Scottish woman found the mundane chores of daily life in Nigeria consuming her time. Is your life similarly filled with repetitive, mind-numbing tasks? Do you feel there is little value in the mundane?

Daily Monotony vs. Spikes of Excitement

As a child listening to missionary stories, I never saw this side of Mary Slessor. Yes, Slessor saved infants from being murdered. She rescued slaves and battered women. She calmly knitted while armed chiefs raged at one another. Most importantly, she introduced the gospel to areas few missionaries dared to go. However, biographies often leave out the boring parts of everyday life. They must, or you wouldn’t keep reading!

In her correspondence, Slessor candidly reported the mundane tasks that consumed most of her days. Summing up, she wrote, “So, you see, life here, as at home, is just a record of small duties which occupy the time, and task the strength without much to show for it.”1 Years passed, and her work remained a mostly domestic affair with no churches planted in her region and few converts to report.

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The Principle of the Open Hand

There is a dynamic that each of us must learn by experience that has the power to transform our understanding of the Christian life. I call it the principle of the open hand.

I have tried to determine who first enunciated this concept. Apparently, it traces to Martin Luther, who stated: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

Apparently, Corrie Ten Boom—one of the great Christian heroes who arose through the horrors of the Holocaust—loved that quote and added her own twist, saying: “I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands.”

A variation on this theme is that God will only dispense His blessings into an open hand, never a clenched fist.

It seems to me that all of these precepts are true and work together, but I would actually add one more layer to them. You see, anytime I close my fist to clutch God’s blessings, He does not even have to pry them away from me. They simply crumble and vanish like the dust.

However, when I hold those treasures that He lends for my oversight carefully, but lightly—with my hands open toward heaven, displaying faith—they somehow remain secure. Not only that, He seems to reward my posture. Sometimes He will even:

… open for (me) the windows of heaven
And pour out for (me) such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)

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Young adults, including Christians, have complicated relationships with money

"An AdelFi study conducted by Lifeway Research found that having a Christian worldview impacts the way young adults (ages 25-40) manage their money, which is most evident in that Christians give nearly three times as much money as non-Christians." - C.Index

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To My Surprise, I Love My Work

In 2013 I was pretty sure I’d never love my work, ever again. I’d served as a full time pastor since 2001, and though I kept some small side jobs going for fun and a little income, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else as a vocation and finding it satisfying.

That perspective was emotional, not theological. Circumstances led to my leaving ministry, and though I made the decision, I didn’t make it happily. The transition to “a normal job” was dramatic, frightening, and depressing. Being just a bit into middle age at the time, I wrestled with the feeling that my best days were over, and my remaining years were going to be a relatively meaningless glide to the grave.

It didn’t help that my first post-pastoral work opportunity was mindless, repetitive, emotionally draining work (though with unexpectedly good compensation).

At one point, I tried to get into a dispatch job with the Wisconsin State Police. I don’t know how close I came to getting the job, but I’m so thankful now it didn’t pan out. Talk about emotionally draining work! I was not, at the time, fit to be making quick decisions with people’s very lives immediately at stake.

Sometimes grace is a closed door!

I ended up doing work that was far less interesting than dispatch would have been, but it wasn’t going to kill anyone—besides me, very slowly.

So for a while I thought everything I did after pastoring was going to be like that: sufficiently lucrative, but uninteresting, and relatively low skill.

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