In church, we often refer to ‘mountain top moments’ and ‘being in the valley’. If you’re not familiar with this language, being on the mountain top means to be having a really good experience. Perhaps you’re at a summer conference; the sun is shining, the worship is great, you feel the Holy Spirit in every seminar, you have a notebook full of notes from the talk, you’ve bought a load of books that you’re so excited to read, you think, “ah, this is so much better than what’s at home”. You’re having a mountain top moment.
Being in the valley is the opposite. You can still experience God in the valley, but everything is darker, heavier and harder. Perhaps everything is going wrong, one thing after another, and although you know God is there, you don’t understand what He’s doing and that’s painful.
I think there’s a third ‘place’. I think this third place is one we’re most often at, but gets recognised and appreciated a lot less. This third place is ‘the path of the mundane’. It isn’t the spirit-filled youth event with lots of young people giving their lives to Jesus, but it’s also not when you’re running a youth event that has one problem after another, you’re burning out and can’t see God in the project anymore. The path isn’t always easy, sometimes it’s a bit rocky, a bit steep, sometimes there isn’t enough shade or it rains, but it’s fine. It’s the mundane. It’s the youth group that happens every week that you don’t see anything happening in. That’s not to say nothing is happening, or that it’s going badly, you’re just not seeing it. Or it’s the sermon you give, and you don’t get any response from it. Or it’s just your commute to work, your tidying, your preparing.
I wanted to be a youth worker since I was fourteen years old. I remember the day that I voiced this, and class-mates telling me that it wasn’t a proper job. When I imagined being a youth worker, it included the big events, constant conversation with young people and constantly seeing growth and change. It included only mountain-top moments. I never imagined making 4 mugs of hot chocolate every Sunday evening, or sitting at my desk trying to work out how to print on labels for an entire hour, (and then still getting it wrong). I didn’t imagine finishing youth at 9:30pm and then packing away for a further 45 minutes. None of this stuff is bad or unenjoyable. Okay, maybe the label-printing-mishap was unenjoyable. But it's just the mundane. I didn’t imagine God being in my mundane, because I didn’t imagine having a mundane.
There is so much beauty and so many blessings to be had on the path of the mundane, but it’s like we’re always focusing on the mountain top, desperate not to find ourselves in the valley, that we forget to appreciate the beauty and blessings.
I challenge you to write down three mundane blessings per day for the next week. Found a bargain in wilko? Had lunch out with a friend? Made a nice dinner? Slept well? Checked everything off your to-do list? Had a couple of regulars at your youth group? Had a word that might have been from God? Shared a sermon, made a little mistake, but all-in-all, it went alright? Write it down, recognise it and be thankful.
You’re walking along on a path. It looks a bit like this:
Above you is the mountain top experience.
Below you is the valley
You’re walking along but your hands are covering your eyes so that you can't see. Little do you know, there are flowers growing out of the rocks beside you. There’s an army of ants working together, carrying leaves so much bigger than they are, just passing you now. The sun has just come out from the clouds. It’s a little steep and there's a big pile of rocks to stumble over, but it’ll get easier soon. Your friend has joined you and put their hand out with a cup of water and a chocolate biscuit. Oh look, a beautiful, big bird has just flown past!
But you’ve got your eyes closed, worried about being back in the valley and expecting the mountain top, that you’ve missed the blessings on the path of the mundane.