Claire and I recently joined a small group at the church (Restoration Covenant Church) we have been attending. We have only met twice, but are excited about sharing in each other’s stories. As a small group we are working our way through A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz).
We discussed the first three chapters on Tuesday, paying special attention to the author’s note. Donald Miller writes:
“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
“But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either. Here’s what I mean by that” (p. xiii).
I love a movie/story that elevates me beyond my mundane, and at times boring, life. But here is where I struggle: I want a Gladiator-style life not my current humdrum existence of cooking for 250 fifth graders, which can involve heating up canned marinara. So I look elsewhere. I think about other places I could work. Better places. Places where I could get better training. Places where I could cook for people who actually appreciate food.
I equate boring with bad, and if I am honest, boring is a place where God is not. Therefore, to find God, I must find something more exciting. Instead of looking for and finding God in my present situation, no matter how boring, my attention immediately shifts elsewhere. After all, I want my life to count. Like Donald Miller, “I just hope I have something interesting to say” if He asks me what I have done with my life.
Which brings me to February 14.
The temptation is to do something big. To “wow” Claire with my romantic, sensitive side, from the flowers to gifts to notes, but especially to dinner. If there is a night to pull out all the stops, it’s Valentine’s Day. I did not realize this until Tuesday night at small group, but I was right back to the same struggle on a micro-scale.
Saturday night, Claire and I had done something “big” – we dined out at Farm Artisan Foods in Redlands, CA, spending a lot more money than we are accustomed to.
Therefore, on Monday, dinner was to be kept on the inexpensive side. I went with what I would describe as our favorite simple dinner: roasted chicken and potatoes and fresh sautéed asparagus. The total for the ingredients was probably under eight dollars, but in no way tasted cheap or boring.
For dessert, we had homemade chocolate pudding which I had made on Sunday for a family birthday celebration. The recipe that I used is the recipe from the restaurant I used to work at. The Los Angeles Times published the recipe back in October 2009. It is a wonderful pudding and tastes so much better than instant or store bought. The pudding has a deep chocolate flavor, which is smoothed out by the use of white chocolate. It is simple and very nostalgic.
Despite the simplicity and ordinariness of the meal, the evening was still very special. I did do some things to make the evening different than others, like buying flowers, setting out extra candles, and setting the table with extra care.
So maybe the simple and the ordinary do not have to be boring. Maybe as a way to rise above the boring and mundane, I need to stop more often and prepare myself, like I did on Valentine’s Day to notice the extraordinariness of the moment. This does not come easy or naturally, as my robotic-like habits are hard to break, not to mention safe, much like driving a Volvo. But if I long for a life of meaning, I am beginning to believe that it is finding the Relational God in all moments. If I can slowly train myself to do this, I wonder if I will discover that the mundane is actually fraught with extraordinariness.