There is a place on the bookshelf to the left of the fireplace where we keep the checkbook. How we came to keep it there I do not recall. We don’t write many checks, given on-line bill pay and the near universal acceptance of the debit card. So if I need to find the checkbook I always know where to look – left of the fireplace, second shelf up.
That’s exactly what I did a couple of days ago when Marnie asked me to retrieve the checkbook. I went to that familiar place, left of the fireplace, second shelf up, fully expecting to find the checkbook and thus respond gladly to my wife’s request. It wasn’t there.
“Where’s the checkbook?” I asked with a puzzled tone.
“Right where we always keep it,” my wife replied, more frustrated than puzzled.
“Nope, not there.” My puzzlement now replaced with confidence.
And then a familiar scene unfolded. My wife walked over that very spot, the place where I myself had stood in an effort to locate the checkbook, left of the fireplace, second shelf up – and she found it. She observed wryly that it was right in front of me, partially hidden under some shelf detritus, but there nonetheless.
How is it that things that I can’t find simply materialize for my wife? I can only conclude that we have a different way of looking for things. I tend to “scan” the area, give it a good once over. My wife actually searches, seeks the thing out. She often finds. I often do not.
A long Babylonian siege had crippled the city of Jerusalem. Eventually the siege became conquest. The city was ravaged, worship at the Temple ceased, and many of the people were taken into exile. In Babylon the people of Judah had a hard time finding God. Everywhere they looked they saw a divine vacancy. They were a God forsaken people in a God forsaken place. That’s how it looked.
The prophet Jeremiah, having been left behind in Jerusalem, wrote a letter to the exiles. In the letter he encouraged them to give themselves fully to the everyday: Build houses, raise your children, plant crops, celebrate marriages and births (Jer. 29:4-6). In the midst of his exhortations he spoke a word of promise to them. God is not playing games with you. God is not hiding. God will be found when you seek him with all your heart (Jer. 29:13).
The prophet’s promise is for us to claim today as we begin to think about what it mans to find God in the everyday. There are days – plenty of them – when the ways and work of God are evident in the details of our living. But there are just as many days when we can’t find God. Perhaps, drowsy with the ordinary, we stop looking.
Time to look again. Finding God in the everyday may have much to do with how we seek God out. Simply scanning our lives may not be adequate. A weekly pause from our breakneck pace in which we glance over our shoulder to see if God is still around may fail to discover God’s ways among us. It’s not enough to simply look. We need to look again, search God out. The prophet reminds us to seek and to seek with all that we are.
The weeks ahead will be about this seeking, and the site to be explored will be the familiar everyday terrain of your own life. God is in the everyday, your everyday, and God wills to be found by you. The question is how hard are you willing to search?
Ever present God, we recognize that hurry and carelessness often keep us from seeking you. We look at the world, we look at people around us, and too often we see problems that defy solution. We go through our days and often we end each day bored and tired. We come to a New Year ready to look for you again. Help us to find you in the everyday and make us intent in our seeking, we pray. Amen.