Today’s meditation will probably be brief, as my wife and I are in the midst of celebrating her birthday.
For the most part, my wife has pretty limited expectations when it comes to celebrations; she never insists on extravagant gifts and is usually happy simply to spend time together when celebrating special events. When it comes to her birthday, however, there are certain little things that must be done for the celebration to count. For instance, her chair at the dining table must have a mylar birthday balloon affixed to it and her day must begin with her traditional (if unusual) April Fool’s Day Birthday Breakfast: dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, mint chocolate chip ice cream, peas, and ketchup. When we first started dating, the specificity of these expectations tended to stress me out a little bit; I had no idea what I would do, for instance, if I couldn’t nuggets that weren’t dino-shaped. Over the years, however, I’ve found that I’ve grown to love the ritual of preparing for my wife’s birthday. Taking the time to purchase ice cream and chicken nuggets from the grocery store is representative of the time we give to each other our marriage. Setting that birthday table is a way of making it clear that we value the presence of each other in our lives. Small acts like these become symbols of how grateful we are for each other and how devoted to one another we strive to be.
We often get caught up in the notion that we can only experience the presence and love of God in dramatic, life-changing acts of conversion. We celebrate people like Paul or Augustine, individuals who dramatically changed the course of their lives after having an encounter with the living God. But we must also recognize that God is present to us in the little things. God is present to us when we make time in our days to pray and listen for God’s voice. God is present to us when we gather around a table where bread and wine are carefully arranged and shared. God is present to us when we strive to renew our faith lives during the season of Lent. And like my wife’s birthday breakfast, we ought make these little things expected and regular parts of our lives, moments when we are intentionally attuned to the presence of God. I pray that during the season of Lent, all of us will be graciously aware of those times that God is made known to us in the little things.