The Glory of the Common Life
It was only a scrubby bush which Moses saw in the desert; and yet as it burned, it gleamed with splendor. No wonder the old shepherd turned aside to look at the strange sight! He wanted to solve the mystery. But a voice halted him. God was in the bush!
Mrs. Browning, referring to this singular incident, says:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries!”
The poet’s thought is that the glory of God is in everything – in every tree, in every flower, and in every lowly bush; but almost nobody sees the glory! Most people see only the bush or the plant. Only now and then, one sees the flame – the splendor of God – and takes off his shoes!
To many people, life is all a dreary commonplace. Some see nothing beautiful in nature. They will walk through the loveliest gardens and see nothing to admire. They will move among Christian people and never observe in them any glimpses of immortality, or any revealings of the Divine nature. They will go through all their years and never see God in anything! It would give us a radiant world in nature if our eyes were opened to see the splendor that is in every tree, plant, and flower!
An artist was painting a picture which he hoped might be honored at the Academy. It was of a woman struggling up a street, on a wild and stormy night, carrying her baby in her arms. Doors were shut in her face. Nowhere was there warmth, sympathy, or love for her. The artist titled the picture “Homeless.” As he was painting it, imagination filled his soul with pity. “Why do I not go to lost people themselves, to try to save them, instead of merely painting pictures of them?” he began to ask himself. The common bush burned with fire. Under the impulse of the new feeling, he gave himself to Christ and to Christian ministry. He devoted his life to serving the Lord as a missionary, endeavoring to save the lowest lost! If we had eyes touched by Divine anointing, we would see in every outcast, and in every depraved life, the gleaming of every possible glory.
Many of the best people in the world are lowly and obscure. They have no shining qualities or brilliant gifts. Yet if we could see them as they really are, we would find the thorn-bush burning with fire. They are full of God. Christ lives in them!
God is usually found in the most unlikely places. When the shepherds went to seek for the Holy Child, they did not go to fine mansions, to the homes of the great or the rich, or to earthly palaces. They found the Babe in a stable, sleeping in a feeding-trough!
Lowell’s legend is a story for all days and all places. As the knight rode out from his castle gate at the beginning of his quest for the Holy Grail, he tossed a coin to the leper who sat by the wayside begging. Through all lands, he rode in a vain search for the sacred cup. At length, he was old, broken, disappointed, and chastened; and he returned home. There sat the leper as before, by the castle gate. The knight had learned love’s lesson. He shared his last crust with the leper. He broke the ice on the nearby stream, brought water in his wooden bowl, and gave the beggar a drink. Then the leper was revealed as Christ – and the bowl was the Holy Cup!
Ofttimes it is in the lowliest ways that God is found, after people have long sought for Him in vain, in all the ways of splendor. One of the disciples asked the Master to show him the Father. He thought the revealing would come in some heavenly splendor. But Jesus said that He had been showing them the Father in all the years He had been with the disciples. He referred to His everyday life of love and kindness. You say you have never seen God, and that you wish you could see Him. You claim you could believe in Him more easily if you could see Him sometimes. That is what the disciples thought. They pleaded, “Show us the Father, and it is enough.” Yet they really had been seeing the Father the whole three years!
So it is that Christ comes to us continually in plain garb, in lowly ways, without any apparent brightness. We decline tasks and duties that are assigned to us, thinking they are not worthy of our fine hands – not knowing that they are holy ministries which angels would eagerly perform! Not one of the disciples that last night would take the basin and towel and wash the feet of the others and of the Master. Washing feet was the lowliest of all tasks; the lowest slave in the household did it. But while these proud men scoffed and shrank from the service, Jesus Himself did it! Then they saw that washing the feet of others in love is Divine in its splendor. The thorn-bush burned with fire!
Some of the happiest people in the world are doing the plainest tasks, are living in the plainest way, have the fewest luxuries, and scarcely ever have an hour for rest or play. But they are happy because they are contented. They love God. They follow Jesus. They have learned to love their work and do it with delight, eagerness, and enthusiasm.
Many people have never learned to see God in their everyday life. It seems to them that their life is not worthy of them, and that its splendor is lost in their commonplace tasks. But everything that we do for Christ is glorious, however lowly it is in itself!
There is a customary thought that the calling of a minister is more sacred than that of a carpenter, a shoemaker, a merchant, or a mother. No one has an ordination service for a house-painter or a grocer like they do for a pastor, but why not? There really is a splendor and a radiance in each person’s occupation, however plain it may seem to be!
We should not feel humiliated by our lowly earthly condition; we should glorify it. The bright, cheery, good-hearted bootblack who “shines ’em up” is far above the useless millionaire who never thinks of God or man. You can live a noble life anywhere with God. Your humblest thorn-bush burns with fire!
Some people go to far-off lands to see the splendors there. Italy is glorious. Switzerland is glorious. But there is also glory in every common blade of grass, in every tiny flower, in every bud, in every leaf, and in every butterfly!
We read biographies of great men and women and are charmed by what they did, and by the noble qualities we find in their character. That is a good thing. But just where you are, there are glories also! In your own life, there are Divine possibilities – even though you may not have found them all yet.
Perhaps you have been thinking rather discouragingly about yourself. You feel that you hardly have a fair share of comfort, opportunities, or privileges. You have been fretting because you are not getting on or getting up as fast as you want to. You have been discontented and depressed. Ask God to open your eyes – and then you will see your thorn-bush burning with fire. Your everyday life is full of splendor! There is not a single hour in your commonest day that is uneventful.
The work of a lace weaver seems, to an observer, to be a great tangled puzzle. But out of it all, there comes marvelous beauty. Similarly, life often seems to be a tangled puzzle to us as we look at its events, its circumstances, its sorrows, and its joys. But in the end, we shall see that not one thread was ever weaved into the wrong place in the web. The Lord Jesus brings glory to the commonest things in our everyday lives!
Have you been discouraged or discontented with the common things in your life? Have you asked the Lord to open your eyes so that you may see your thorn-bush burning with fire?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.