I once read a story of Arjeta, a woman who survived the civil war in former Yugoslavia with nothing but her grandmother’s cherrywood table. I was drawn to the narrative much like she was drawn to the table. For years after the war, she would not part with this piece of furniture, refusing to exchange it for food, money or even shelter. This shabby, worn down piece of wood was her greatest treasure. Despite the ruptures in her life and her feelings of isolation and obscurity, Arjeta found solace in the memories and stories etched into the table’s very grains. Each scratch and stain held the good and the bad, the memories of her family and loved ones, tales of love and pain, suffering and hope. It was all mapped out on this cherrywood table, speaking truth over her life and reminding her of the things that mattered most.
There can be great meaning in our gathering places. I keep coming back to that story and the power of the cherrywood table, and I think about the stories, the truths, and the meanings etched into my own dining table. The sacred stories of my marriage, motherhood, and ministry are all mapped out on this mundane table. Each time I sit at it, memories begin to surface, memories which bear witness to God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His mercy in my life. This table is my very own ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:14), a modern altar that bears witness to all the ways in which God has thus far kept me and preserved me.
Each dent and crack along the surface are opportunities for reflection. I see the rather large bump where our table was waterlogged once because our washing machine flooded (it’s a funny story, actually). There are heat stains from all the times I’ve set out hot pots of chai while hearing the stories of women – their experiences of pain and sorrow, the tragedies that have overwrought their life, and also the joys and mercies of God. The legs are wobbly and cracked from all the moving this table has undergone because of church events, birthday parties, and game nights. Sticky, gooey stains surround the place where my kids sit, reminding me of their presence, their sweetness, and joy even when they are not sitting at the table.
My table is not cherrywood. It certainly isn’t fancy, and neither are the stories that it keeps hidden within its grains. It is an ordinary table giving testament to ordinary stories. You see, my life is ordinary, but, more importantly, my God is a God of the ordinary.
So often, I find myself wishing that my life was extraordinary, that there was more to my day-to-day routine than the domestic spaces in which I inhabit. I catch myself dreaming about doing something “great” and being famous. I want people to look at my life and be impressed. I don’t want to see my story reflected in a broken, old table covered with coffee stains and food crumbs. I want to see it blazing across a shiny billboard for all to see with all the accolades and praise that comes with it.
But that’s not who I am, and that’s not who our God is.
Our God is the God of the daily, the mundane, and the ordinary, and that is good news for us. Perhaps some of us will become famous. Perhaps some of us will be called “great” according to the world’s standards. But most of us will not have movies made about us or books written of our legacies. Most of us will live ordinary lives as simple women, mothers, wives, grandmothers, daughters, and sisters. And you know what God wants? He wants us to make Him great in our ordinary, simple lives.
Paul Tripp once said, “If God doesn’t rule your mundane, then he doesn’t rule you. Because that’s where you live.” God isn’t calling me to live a “great” life. He wants me to live my ordinary life and make Him great in it.
Being a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom is my ordinary. This is what God has called me to be and where God is showing up in my life. He is doing great things in my heart as a wife. He is doing great things in the lives of my children, drawing them to Himself and growing their tender hearts to love Him. He uses my brokenness, my mundane activities, my feeble words, and even my mistakes to point to Him.
That’s why I need this beautiful, worn-down dining table. This mundane piece of furniture reminds me of the sacred in my life. It reminds me that even though I am “prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love,” God has never abandoned me. Despite my struggles as a mother, my insecurities as a pastor’s wife, and my failures as a wife, He has never given up on me, scorned me, or regretted adopting me as His daughter. He shows up time and time again, offers me His mercy and grace, and rescues me from all kinds of dangers — including myself.
This is what I see every time I look at my ebenezer. Perhaps your ebenezer is not your dining table. Perhaps it’s some other piece of furniture, object, picture or journal. Regardless, we each need these kinds of altars in our lives, these testaments to God’s sacred work in our mundane lives that we can look back to time and time again. Ingrained deep within these material objects is an extraordinary story worth telling, a story that points to our true identity and purpose in this life, a story that deep down our souls long to be a part of.
What are the ebenezer in your life?
God isn't calling me to live a 'great' life. He wants me to live my ordinary life and make Him great in it. -@dr_reyes2: Click To Tweet