Recently, my wife, Catherine, ordered this print from a company called Mapify.
They specialize in custom made maps; you can order maps of places of significance to you and include some personalized design details. For the map we have in our home now, it is of Odaiba, Japan, where our romance and relationship was rekindled. Awww… A story for another day. And the words printed on it are our wedding verse. To be honest, I was kind of surprised she did this, because to me it seemed like a rather romantic gesture. And between the two of us, I am the more romantic one. The one who remembers our wedding anniversary and her birthday, the one who makes plans to celebrate Valentines’ Day, etc.
However, while I appreciate the romantic stuff we get to do, like going off for a holiday in Japan – just the two of us last year – I also recognize that marriage is not mainly built on these romantic experiences. Marriage is built on the mundane and boring. It is built on doing the laundry, washing the dishes, ironing the clothes. It is built on waking up to feed our babies (when they were young), changing their diapers, cleaning their mess. While not spectacular, it’s the seemingly ordinary day-to-day interactions and conversations that can either build up or tear down a marriage. It is in the wrestling through disagreements and differences of opinions that we can grow deeper in our relationship and come to a better understanding of each other. These shared “boring” experiences are therefore foundational in a marriage relationship.
Mundane and boring may well describe this phase of college life for both staff and students. I may be wrong, but I don’t think many of us are thinking, “Yes! I’m going to be taking my promo paper after assembly. So exciting… can’t wait for it!” Or teachers, I don’t think many of you are thinking, “this is the best part of JC-life, marking season… so much fun I’m going to have marking the exam scripts.” But here’s what I want to leave with you this morning, that God can be encountered in the ordinary, not just the spectacular.
Let me illustrate this for you in an episode found in the Bible. Before I read you the verses, let me set the context for you. There was a prophet of God by the name of Elijah and he was on the run for his life. He had upset and displeased King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Jezebel had vowed to take Elijah’s life. Elijah became afraid and fled, ending up in a cave which became his lodging. It was here that God showed up and spoke to Elijah to strengthen and encourage him.
“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” 1 Kings 19:11-12
In the Old Testament, the motifs of wind, earthquake, fire are all natural phenomena that heralded the appearance or presence of God. Yet in this particular encounter that God had with Elijah, it was not in the spectacular that God revealed Himself, but in the sound of a gentle whisper.
We sometimes have this misconception that when God shows up, it must be in some powerful, miraculous manner. Like in church where there is powerful preaching and there is anointed worship. We imagine miracles of healing, raising the dead, walking on water, turning water into wine. And all of this is true. God is a God of miracles. How else could you explain why my wife married me? That’s a miracle!
But we can also encounter God in quiet, unassuming ways. He is constantly speaking to us, through the beauty of creation, through our conscience, through the words of Christ (in Holy Scripture). It is in the daily routines of our lives – even in the midst of the rigors of examinations – that God intersects and interacts with us; if only we would be sensitive to the sound of the gentle whisper.
For Elijah, if you continue reading the rest of the narrative, God spoke to him and encouraged him to continue the mission God had sent him on. Elijah had felt he was alone in his journey, but God revealed to him that there were yet 7000 true followers of God in Israel. From this, Elijah took courage and pressed on. For us, perhaps some of us do need to hear encouragement from God. From God who says, I will give you wisdom and strength. From God who says, I am with you. From God who says, I will provide companions on your journey.
Dear friends, I pray that each of us will be able to encounter God in the ordinary, the mundane, the seemingly boring and hear the voice of a gentle whisper speaking His words of love over us today.
Pray: God of mighty miracles, God of the ordinary, we thank You that in each and every situation of our lives, there are opportunities to experience Your love. To hear Your voice. To know Your comfort. Speak to us, strengthen us, sanctify us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.