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In reserved praise of the uneventful life

October 26, 2009

My pastor’s sermon yesterday was therapeutic, convicting, and vindicating. He pointed out that the thirteen years between the birth of Ishmael and the birth of Isaac record no events of significance in the life of Abraham. The message was that life is full of protracted uneventful times. I realize how much I covet events for the sake of events themselves. I think of myself as being “perfectly spontaneous as long as nothing upsets my routine.” But the truth is that I require upheaval even though the stress in its wake is destructive.

I suspect that much event-seeking is largely cultural. Americans are calibrated to elections, holidays, school years and summers, distinct phases of childhood, advanced education, career, family, home purchases, retirement, & c. We are exposed to events of life and death, to media events, shopping events, cultural events, political events, and cardiac events. Clearly, it is typical for people to require events to mark time, or to feel useful or purposeful.

I don’t know whether or not my need for events is more extreme than other peoples’. Perhaps my uneventful phases are so markedly uneventful that I require fairly meteoric events to make up for a sense of “lost time.” It’s time (for instance) to move to France! But in the Providence of God, we have a Cat who will brook no event generation if he can possibly help it. Coolidge is the very model of a serenely uneventful life. He marks time, whether consciously or not, by the opening of cans, the administration of shots, and the presence or absence of his people in his abode. He tends to be more active when he has admirers to whom to demonstrate his prowess. I can’t honestly say that my life is very different from his. I can honestly say that I am able consciously to desire alternatives, which is perhaps a habit of gainsaying God’s providence.

We are conscious beings, and consciousness is always eventful. In a sense, we make our own gravy. I’m not talking about imagining alternatives to our present realities. I’m referring to the fact of consciousness as an ongoing event. Life is never uneventful even if it remains undisrupted or not particularly busy. This I find specifically vindicating. I don’t have to generate events or look forward to events or wish for major events to happen. I can remain conscious, write, absorb things that I read, and encourage a friend while scarcely realizing I am doing so. I prepare meals, clean bathrooms, do laundry, take out trash, pay bills, and essentially maintain an organized household routine. My husband and I shatter our morning fast with coffee, a pleasant event. I make cups of tea throughout the day, each one a mini event and an opportunity to appreciate something. I suppose my thought is that events do happen, even if they do not approach the magnitude of taking out four kings or negotiating with God to save a city. This implies that consciousness of our particular events should direct us to contentment .

Does this mean that contentment should preclude entirely the need to drum up intercontinental relocations? I’m going to posit no on this. Contentment is not resignation; contentment does not displace aspiration. I believe that consciousness must beget aspiration as well as contentment. The apostle Paul was content in bounty and in trial, but he always aspired to keep up the good fight in the service of Christ. I think this is the model for event management in a Christian’s daily life. My work then, is to aspire to conform my aspirations to God’s gracious will, while knowing that I can only aspire to contentment.

  1. Laura permalink
    October 26, 2009 6:06 pm

    Thank you for this therapeutic, convicting, and vindicating post, to put it plagiaristically. What coherent thoughts on a topic that has always confused me. I feel something akin to guilt sometimes when family members call to chat, and I can’t think of any interesting news to present, as if the lack thereof suggests an idle, unproductive life. But I can bear to be a boring phone conversationalist if it’s because I keep to a routine that is not hectic or brimming with millennial importance, but faithful to my calling. I am glad you got to hear that sermon, for both our sakes. :)

  2. October 27, 2009 6:53 am

    Lauren I starred this when I read it yesterday in my reader and have thought about it this morning. It was one of those things that encouraged a friend without your realising it.

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