Learning to be someone responsible for a home is a new experience for me. Opening boxes, organising, finding furniture, putting things ‘just so’ can be very exciting and creative, whilst also quite messy and stressful at times. I have found it really helpful that as I began this adventure I was reading a book by Thomas Howard called Hallowed be this House (also printed as Splendour in the Ordinary). He raises the vision of home making and ordinary life, encouraging us to see our homes as little ‘shrines’, a place set aside for living that is shaped by God’s truth. Each area or room in the house is explored to see how we can be taught deep and wonderful mysteries about how the world is and should be as we ‘live’ in each.
In our houses, he says, we “come into the place where it is said to us, … see to it that what goes on here is a small picture of what ought to go on everywhere. It doesn’t go on everywhere, but your task is to see that it does here. This is the spot allotted to your priesthood. Be faithful” p20.
He really wants people to see that everything in our world is made by God and is therefore holy – when it is treated as such and offered back to God willingly by His people. It may seem that our lives are not at all filled with holy or special things, but he offers that actually it is the “ordinary things … like eating and drinking and working and playing and bread and wine …. [that, when] lifted up [are] the holy” p21. And these ‘holy things’, or “ordinary things perceived in their true light [teach us about] divine mysteries and glories” p21, for instance; cooking a meal or washing up for your family gives us a tiny glimpse into what true, deep, unconditional sacrificial love might look like (perhaps something like God’s love for us).
Howard finishes chapter two saying that as we offer our daily living to God, doing it for Him and by His strength we make them holy or “hallow them to the service for which they were given to us” p21, we actually begin to know the freedom that comes when we live in God’s story. We are “set free to live in the splendour where eating and drinking and working and playing are known for what they really are, forms of perpetual workshop and therefore bliss” p21.
It all sounds kind of similar to what Paul charges us with in Romans 12 – to offer our lives (our ordinary, everyday lives) to God as a sacrifice, an offering, a gift – and then, perhaps, the ordinary becomes less ordinary and our lives are infused with true beauty and grace. Its something I’m learning. That God is good with the ordinary, or with what seems to be ordinary, when He gets a look in. And then, suddenly, my ordinary life is not so ordinary, it is shot through with the deepest glory in the universe. This is definitely a divine mystery when you think about all the suds and mops and boxes and chux wipes that are involved.
Again, its something that I’m really only beginning to understand practically, but I want to keep learning (oh, and I would very much recommend the book!).
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.” (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)