Finding freedom, purpose and joy in life’s mundane

Kari Patterson, author of "Sacred Mundane"

Sacred Mundane by Kari Patterson Kregel Publications

Part 1 of an interview with Kari Patterson,

Author of Sacred Mundane

Many women feel trapped in everyday drudgery and disappointment, in dull domestic duties and jobs that don’t offer fulfillment. The mundane day-in, day-out life seems like a far cry from the abundant, purposeful life they envisioned as Christians. In Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy (Kregel Publications), author and blogger Kari Patterson helps readers find freedom, purpose and joy in the life they are living right now.

Q: The word “mundane” usually has a negative connotation. How do you define mundane?

Mundane refers to the ordinary, everyday, commonplace, unexciting stuff of life. Yes, it does usually have a negative connotation, and that’s the point! We tend to devalue and despise the mundane, but that is where our transformation takes place. When we overlook this area, we miss the greatest catalyst for effecting true change in our lives. For Naaman, the Jordan River had negative connotations, which was why God led him to dip down into those waters. It is precisely the waters we most want to avoid where our transformation is found.

Q: Explain the life-sentence exercise you ask your readers to do in the introduction of Sacred Mundane.

In 2 Kings, we read, “Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.” He had so much going for him, but his leprosy threatened to steal it all. I ask readers to consider their own lives and prayerfully simmer down their own life into a sentence. We all have so much going for us; we are made in the image of God with gifts, skills, relationships, abilities, potential . . . but there’s something that limits, hinders, robs, and binds us, and in quiet, prayerful moments it will likely come to the surface. There’s something we just can’t kick. So often we’re vaguely aware of the areas we want to change, but we don’t take the time to narrow down and identify the one thing that most hinders us. We feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Identifying the one thing helps us see more clearly how God wants to use our mundane to make us more like Him.

Q: You write we all have something that limits our freedom, confuses our purpose, and steals our joy that we try to hide from others yet it continues to grow. How do we identify what that thing is and remove it from our lives?

The good news is that God wants us free even more than we do. As we sit quietly before Him and genuinely desire to hear from Him, He will show us. We could also ask a close friend, spouse, or someone who truly loves us, “What one thing do you see keeping me from being all God created me to be?” I find it helpful to think of it not as something that’s “wrong with us,” but simply something that’s keeping us from being all God made us to be. It wasn’t Naaman’s fault he had leprosy. Some of our hang-ups are the result of our poor choices, some are a result of what others have done to us, and some are just the consequences of living in a fallen world. The point isn’t to determine whose “fault” it is or to shame us for our weakness or issue, but to find wholeness, freedom, joy.

Q: How does desperation lead to transformation?

Change is hard, but it happens when the discomfort of our problem exceeds the discomfort of changing. When we are finally sick to death of a situation, when we’ve had it with this struggle, that’s when we really seek change. In recovery circles, we would call it “rock bottom” — we each have to reach rock bottom in our situation before we are truly ready to change. My hope is readers have reached their rock bottom or find it in reading the book and become ready to do whatever it takes to let God change their lives.

Q: Why is it sometimes unsettling to let God into our lives when He is right outside, knocking on the door?

It’s unsettling because it means letting go of control. Our greatest temptation will always be to want to rule our own lives, to be our own God, and to do it our way. However, God loves us too much to let us do that because He knows we’ll do a terrible job. We aren’t God, and we were never meant to be. He’s the only One who can handle the weight of that responsibility, so He patiently knocks and waits for us to let Him in. We’re hesitant because of fear and not wanting to give up control. We forget how good He is and how He always is working for our good . . . if only we could trust Him more.

Q: When you were in college, you were on fire for God, yet miserable at the same time. Why were you so unhappy during this period of time?

Life was so very ordinary and full of disappointment. The man I loved had just broken my heart and told me we would never be together (we are now married), my job was full of mundane, tedious tasks, my relationships, especially with my roommate, included the usual conflict and awkwardness, plus I had the challenges of leading 400 college students. I hadn’t yet learned all of life — even the struggling, frustration, irritating, disappointing parts — were part of my sacred offering to God. I genuinely wanted to please God, so it was life-changing for me to realize I could please Him simply by offering up every ordinary day as a sacrifice of praise to Him. Hebrews 13:15 says through Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement we can offer our sacrifice of praise.

Q: On your blog (also named Sacred Mundane), you wrote, “Several years ago God wrecked us for ‘normal,’ and we started doing weird stuff.” What exactly did you and your husband start doing?

By nature, I am very introverted. I like my space, my stuff, and my organized, controlled, neat, and tidy life. I wanted a secure retirement account, a successful writing career, security, and other things like that. In 2010, my husband and I read The Hole in our Gospel, and God completely turned our world upside down. Even though we’d “known” these things, we’d never really known them.

We began seeing the kingdom of God is all about giving away, taking the low seat, preferring others, and storing up treasure in heaven. We sold our dream home and moved to “the other side of the tracks” into a dumpy little rental to plant a church in a lower-income area. We opened up our home and started living in community. We became involved with those coming out of alcohol addiction and even had some ladies live with us who were coming out of homelessness and addiction. For a few years we gave half our income away, and I will be giving away 100% of my proceeds from this book.

None of this is spectacular — lots of people are doing the same — but from the world’s perspective, it’s weird. In fact, our local TV news did a story on our downsize and our commitment to frugality because it seemed strange. Apparently following Jesus is weird to the world! Why would you give half your income away? Why would you downsize unless you had to? Why would you let unsavory people into your home? Because Jesus is awesome, and we finally saw the value in investing in the Kingdom more than in our own little temporal kingdom here on earth.

Q: Why is the mundane so sacred, and how can we learn to embrace it?

The mundane is sacred because that’s where we live. It’s the majority of our lives. Sure, we have some mountaintop experiences. We have vacations and high moments; we have wedding days and exhilarating experiences. But the vast majority of our lives is spent in the midst of ordinary days, so that is why it’s so sacred — because it’s where we live, it’s where God is, dwelling inside us by His Spirit. It’s where our guard is down, and we’re not performing; we’re just our raw and real selves, doing our raw and real thing, and that is where God meets us and makes us more like Him.

Learn more about Sacred Mundane and read Patterson’s Sacred Mundane blog at www.karipatterson.com. She is also active on Facebook (sacredmundane) and Twitter (@sacredmundane).

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