When we’re going through our day and doing our work from 9 to 5, dealing with mundane things about life like taking the garbage out or making dinner, relaxing at home in front of the television, or telling loved ones how you feel about them – do you think God really cares about any of that?
Not of This World
There used to be a heresy in the early days of the church that said that because the soul was all that mattered and would go to heaven, then it really did not matter what material or physical or bodily activities people participate in. Just as long as the soul is pure, then heaven is assured. I have simplified somewhat, but that’s the gist of that early heresy.
The question of what God really cares about is an important question. In fact, the argument can easily be made that it is the supreme question of all religion. Christians, of course, have a simple answer: God cares about people to the extent that he gave his only-begotten son to suffer and die for our salvation. But the corollary to this question is what it entails. Since God cares about people, to what extent does he care about their behavior as well?
So, when you’re taking out the garbage, have you ever stopped to wonder if God cares about what you’re doing right at that second?
Who Cares About Birds?
Jesus himself provided an answer in the Gospel of Matthew:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. (Mat. 10:29)
It can be hard to reconcile the immensity of God with the insignificance of small moments like birds flying or taking out the trash or working all day and going home tired. Nevertheless, that is what Jesus tells us. I may not care for birds (being pecked by a cockatoo and chased by a Canada Goose is enough of birds for me), but God does. In fact, God cares for everyone and everything.
So what do we do with that?
Religiously, we are told to turn our thoughts to God. In everything we do, a thought can be spared for the Creator of the universe who makes it possible. Monastics live a life of prayer and work in which their days are punctuated by specific moments for prayer as well as a practice of constant prayer.
I know a priest who lives on a Skete in Kentucky. Dressed in robes, with a faithful skullcap, and a rope tied around his waist, he goes through his day carrying a long string of prayer beads. Wherever he goes, he tells the beads, making a clicking sound as he walks. It is a comforting sound. Having been in many places with him, synods, masses, dinners – that sound is enough to bring the mind back to God. It has always comforted me.
My friend is an expert in the practice of mindfulness. The beads are a physical sign, a talisman he uses to create a physical connection, of his mindfulness of God. If God can care enough about the small things he does every day, then mindfulness is a way to respond to that care. And my friend is an example of that in action, achieved after a lifetime of practice. It is almost like a constant meditation that does not require sitting still.
But for other people (like me) who don’t have that kind of skill, there are other ways to practice mindfulness. Daily prayer is one simple way. A priest once told my mother to say the morning prayer and then do whatever she wanted. The implication is that if you are connected to God, you will only want to do Godly things.
Recently, I’ve been trying to find ways to keep myself mindful. Other than daily prayer (which I am horrible at recently), I’ve been evaluating my options. In the course of my work, I found an article about the movie Noah and its ecological message. It got me thinking about our relationship to animals and the environment.
My wife is a vegetarian. I generally eat vegetarian as well, except when I’m not the one cooking, like on holidays or at restaurants. But if God cares enough about sparrows, maybe I could care a little more about animals as well. That is just something I’ve been thinking about for myself. But it is an example of a (relatively) easy change in the way we live that can be used to direct our thoughts to God.
Anything can be a way to make our lives more God-centered. We don’t all have to wear beads and beards. The point to really remember is that God cares no matter what we are doing. And we can try in large and small ways to care about God in what we do as well.