No matter how far along our spiritual pilgrimage we may have come, we need to be shown time after time that humble ordinary things can be very holy, very full of God. We may hope for vision and revelations and wonderful experiences, forgetting that the context of the revelation of God to each one of us is, exactly where we are–here on earth, in this house, this room, this work, this family, this physical body.
Elizabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises
This is the beginning of every inquiry lately, as excited friends and family grasp for the appropriate finish to the broad question. How is life? How are you? How is everything?
Everything. As if everyone is aware of the fundamental sea change that’s shaken up our lives for the better, a hurricane in the shape of a tiny little girl who is in love with her own tiny hands and as I write this follows the swirling of the ceiling fan with round grey eyes.
Friends ask for stories from these days, and I realize that with a few exceptions I can tell them the story of every day. Some days we Go Places (capital-letters standing in for the serious quest presented by a trip to the doctor and Target), but most days go like this:
We wake up. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Dress Luci. Talk with family. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Take pictures of Luci. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. Read a story together.Feed Luci. Change Luci. Go to bed early. Try to coax our daughter to sleep through the dark hours of night. Eventually succeed and sleep a little. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Wake up again.
I realize the danger of simple sentences, written not spoken. From the outside, this day sounds at best dull, at worst cold and lifeless. A few modifiers would give it texture, no doubt, but there’s no escaping the cyclical nature of these days, Luci’s first in the world and our first as parents. Nor should there be.
If I were counting minutes, I’m sure I’d be amazed at the sheer amount of time that I spend feeding my daughter, or that Timmy spends bouncing her to cooing contentedness. Then there are the hours we spend just watching her, marveling at the way five expressions can pass over her face in a minute, going from pleased to curious to frustrated with remarkable smoothness. This is perfect. It doesn’t matter that it takes me three times as long to finish writing a blog, with breaks to eat and play on the floor with my daughter. This gift of timelessness is exactly how it should be. Our lives lately are an extravagant collection of moments mundane and miraculous.
(Mundane, I know, is a loaded term, conveying images of endless school lectures or days confined to alphabetizing files. Here, though, I return to its original meaning–earthly–rejecting the modern use as a synonym for boring. These days are earthly, connected to the incarnate realities of eating, sleeping and growing.)
The mundane of knowing that everyone was born, was a baby, has lived through these days of eating, sleeping and discovering. The miracle of knowing that everyone–even the seven-foot BFA alumnus who I saw a few weeks ago–started out in miniature, folded origami-style into someone else.The mundane of new rituals–diapers, nursing, bouncing, tiny clothes–repeated on an infinite loop. The miracle of knowing that everything she sees is new, fresh and exciting, just as she is to us, a whole and lovely little person we’re just getting to know.
To be a new mother during Advent is to appreciate, in a profound way, that Christ’s coming is this same balance of miraculous and mundane. The miracles of a virgin birth, an astronomical birth announcement, an angelic chorus welcome. The mundanity of infancy, with its deeply physical rituals and vulnerabilities. Our Savior could have come another way, maybe, with the pomp and circumstance due the Son of God, but instead He was born, like all of us, connecting Himself to the humanity He’d come for. The miracles remind us of His infinite divinity, but the mundane moments of His early life, especially, remind us that He is one of us, a man among humanity.
And like the sunset I take a hundred pictures of with growing amazement, neither Christ’s coming nor Luci’s ever-changing face are losing their luster. I can look at this smile a million times and fall deeper in love every day. And no matter how many Christmases roll around, I’ll still find beauty and wonder in the loving nearness of Christ’s birth, both humble and grand, miraculous and mundane.