God in the Ordinary

October 14, 2004

This summer I was able to participate in a small biblical skit from the Song of Songs. This Old Testament book takes the form of a love story between a bride and her beloved, and is written in very physical and intimate poetic language. It gives us insight into the true meaning of marriage, as well as God’s tender love for us his people. We enacted this small segment from chapter five of the Song of Songs :

It is the middle of the night and the bride is asleep in her home, when she awakes to a knock on the door. It is her beloved, who traveled through the night to see her. He calls out, “Open to me, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is wet with dew, my hair wet with the moisture of the night!” But she hesitates and does not answer his call. She has already gotten ready for bed and she has already bathed her feet . . . can’t he come back tomorrow morning? Then a short time later, having a change of heart, she springs out of bed and flings open the door—but her beloved is nowhere to be found. He could have entered the house without her permission, but he respected her and did not desire to enter unwanted. He had already turned reluctantly away and left.

Since this summer, I have found this image from Song of Songs to be a helpful metaphor for how God comes to us in our everyday lives. We want God to visit us, but we often tend to expect Him to come only on our time, when we make time for Him (Sunday at church, our daily prayer time, etc.) But God cannot be boxed in so easily. He does indeed meet us in our times of prayer, but like the bride’s beloved, He also comes to us when we least expect Him—at every hour of the day, and indeed even in the middle of the night! Likewise, when He comes, God usually does not come loudly, bulldozing into our lives as if to say, “Look! I Am Who Am has arrived!” No, the Lord usually comes quietly, unassumingly… just a quiet knock on the door of our hearts.

After all, isn’t this how Jesus came into our world? He could easily have come to earth in a glorious descent from heaven, surrounded by millions of angels for the entire world to see. But instead, God entered our world quietly, a seemingly ordinary baby born in the most humble of circumstances. And Jesus lived his life on earth in the same way—meeting his disciples wherever they were, in the midst of their everyday lives and experiences.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus still desires to meet us today in this same quiet, ordinary manner, in the midst of our everyday lives. Peter and Andrew first encountered Jesus in the midst of a normal day of fishing—certainly Jesus can meet us in our daily work in the office, the classroom, the home? The Samaritan woman met Jesus while drawing water at the well, a task she must have done thousands of times—certainly Jesus can speak to us in the grocery store, in a mall, at the in-law’s house? Peter’s mother encountered the Lord as she lay stricken with a deadly fever—certainly Jesus can touch our hearts in the midst of our illnesses and everyday sufferings, both big and small? The Lord is always knocking, but we have to be listening to hear him…

Through a little child, through an annoying co-worker, through a complete stranger. Through an unexpected compliment, through a beautiful sunset, through a little ant crawling along the sidewalk. Nothing is too ordinary, too “normal” for God to reach us through. After all, how else can God reach us, if not through the ordinary? What else is there for Him to reach us through, if not the world in which He has created us?

The Lord, our beloved, is knocking. Will we open up the door?

photos : the sisters and our skit in Mexico

previous reflection : Suffering, a call to love