Just before my alarm sounds to awaken me, I hear the rattle of my phone across the wood top of my bedside dresser. The genesis of this rattle is another text shooting through the airwaves into my phone. These texts are becoming a daily routine at this point of my life. As I lie in my bed, trying to squeeze every ounce of value from the remaining minutes of sleep I have available before I go crashing into the day, I wonder, “What piece of emergent or bad news awakens me as I begin this day?” I begin to feel myself growing weary of this methodical process threatening to become a standard in my life.
Pushing myself toward the phone, my suspicions are confirmed. Another text has arrived prompting me to prayer or to action. Another life is in crisis. Another situation has gone awry. Another normal has been threatened by trauma. It will only be the first of many such notifications in my day. There will be texts and notifications of ER visits, COVID test results, or another dreaded diagnosis of some type of disease, signaling a long battle ahead.
It would be enough if it ended with my phone. But added to the endless array of group and individual texts will be the social media posts coming across my feed. Someone else is in despair, there is another call for “Prayer Warriors” to proceed into action. But it won’t stop there. I need only come across the latest news headlines to be reminded that there has been another mass shooting, there are more riots, there are more factions warring over the value of police officers, and politicians are still playing politics. There is a crisis here and another crisis there. The frequent array of ailments and doctor’s visits from aging family members will only serve to force into my retrospection that we are all getting older, and as we do, things don’t get easier, they get more difficult. And that’s just today. Tomorrow hasn’t yet arrived with its reminder of freshly stricken traumas.
I suppose I should be thankful for the privilege and opportunity to pray for others. I suppose I should be honored to labor with others through life’s most crushing scenarios and realities. And the truth is, I am grateful. But the force, volume, and weight of life’s untimely upheavals, which seem to happen almost daily, can seem quite overwhelming at times. One can almost feel suffocated and left grabbing for any gasp of air for relief. I must admit, it is in these most pressing moments that I can almost relate to the person who once questioned me, “Mark, with all that’s going on in our world, it’s getting harder and harder to see God these days. Can you still see Him anymore?”
Why is it that difficulty and trial always seems to be louder than blessing and joy? It appears that when life appears to be running smoothly, the volume remains at about five. But quickly insert trauma, and the volume immediately goes to a resounding ten, threatening to drown and squeeze out any and everything remaining that is good.
As you approach today, you will be assaulted with any number of things that will threaten “the normal” you’ve grown accustomed to having within your possession. Life has a way of forcing you into the crushing collision of realizing that any moment or day could be your last “normal” moment or day before trauma invades. When that happens, the trauma will demand you bow to its dominance and allow it to suffocate every other exceptional article in your life. In that moment, you will be tempted to ask yourself the all-prevailing question, “God where are You?”
In that moment, you will be tempted to slip further and further from the great awareness of the wonder of that which you assume to be routine and mundane. Beware this moment. In this moment, if you are not careful, the daily miracles of God can simply become routine and median to you. And before long, if it hasn’t already taken place, you will become blind and deaf to these things.
If trauma was common, would it be so loud when it strikes? Is it possible that the divine blessings of God in our daily lives are so frequent, that when trauma hits, that’s the only thing we notice? If trauma and crisis were more frequent in our daily lives, would blessing and joy be louder when it strikes? My humble assertion is that the good always far outweighs the bad in life. We just grow so accustomed to the good, we take it for granted, almost as if it is owed to us.
This may strike you as odd, but the reality is that there isn’t one single ounce of air in your lungs that you are owed or guaranteed. Of the close to 100,000 times your heart beats and pumps blood through your body in a day, not one of them is owed to you. Of the 78 organs in your body that perform life-giving function for you on a daily basis, not one of those functions was owed to you, nor did you earn them. They are among the many divine gifts given to you on a daily basis. For some, they are longer, for some they are shorter, but every single one of them is a gift.
Beware losing the ability to see and hear the miracle of the mundane, or allowing trauma to suffocate or drown it out. If you allow this to happen, you will be in danger of failing to recognize one of the greatest moments of each day…the moment you awoke, took your first breath, and were granted the gift of another day. It doesn’t matter what you’re facing, each day is an opportunity for everything to be made new. At the very least, as hard as it may be to face the circumstances of this day, at least you’re in the fight, and there is great value in the fight.
Don’t allow the trauma to suffocate the fact that most of us go to a sink each day, turn a knob, and clean water actually comes running out onto our hands. You may hate where you’re going, but don’t lose sight of the fact that God positioned you to be able to get there in a temperature-controlled motor vehicle in a fraction of the time it would take you to walk. Don’t miss the melodious sounds of joy coming from the children at play from the school playground. There will be the kiss as you head out the door, the hug around your neck, or the earth-shattering moment when you end your day by tucking your kids into bed, or you simply tell your spouse “Goodnight, I love you.”
There will be the moment when your drained body lumbers through the door and your dog comes running just to let you know you’re the most important person in their world. The recliner will prop up your aching feet…a place to sit, a roof over your head. How could it be!? The ketchup from your hamburger runs and drips down your forearm at lunch. Who are you to have such luxury to eat like a king? There’s the moment when your kids scream for joy and lick their lips as you pull ice cream from the freezer. Maybe it’s you eating the ice cream and you’re cheating your diet. But isn’t it great just to have the option?
Beyond the miraculous routine, you will also experience episodic events that define you. Some will graduate, some will be promoted, some will get married, some will get sick, some will disappoint, some will stray, and all will die. Whether you are shedding tears over caps and gowns, sharing smiles over wedding dresses, or experiencing the grief of carrying the casket to the grave, in every joy and every hardship, you will be reminded that you have been granted the great gift of having someone of value in your life. It hurts when we lose loved ones and have to say goodbye. But never let that drown out the fact that it simply means we were given the incredible benefit of having someone in our lives who meant something to us, and most likely, we meant something to them. We had the opportunity to love and be loved. What can be greater?
Finally, there will be moments that won’t make sense. We won’t have answers. We will have to wade through the waters of despair. Some pieces of suffering will seem so encompassing, that we will struggle to find their purpose. But in the midst of them all, they will still be vastly outnumbered by the miracles that await us in every mundane moment of life. Never take them for granted. Never overlook them.
The miracles of the mundane, the bluntness of the traumas, all of them are working together to remind us that there will simply be some moments when we are left choosing to be confident in what we’re hoping for, and being sure of something, even when we can’t see it. That most miraculous gift, for the few who find it, is called faith.
Faith will be the portal that enables us to trust that all of “these light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) Somehow, these miraculous, routine moments we often take for granted, are working with the episodic traumas we tend to repel, to do something of greater infinite worth than we can imagine. God calls that glory in Heaven. It’s the only thing that can make any sense of these things coexisting together in this brief, temporary human existence we know as life before eternity.
“Mark, with all that is going on in our world, can you still see God anymore?” That was the question to me that heavy day. I have discovered that the older I get, the more I see and experience of this life, and the more I filter it through faith, I can’t help but see God…in every single, solitary thing and moment.