A brother said to Abba Pœmen, “Give me a word,” and he said to him, “As long as the pot is on the fire, no fly nor any other animal can get near it, but as soon as it is cold, these creatures get inside. So it is for the [Christian]. As long as he lives in spiritual activities, the enemy cannot find a means of overthrowing him.”
— Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 154
But we live in a culture with a small view of “spiritual activities.” If we don’t have a prayerbook in our hand or we’re not standing at the divine services in the temple, then we believe the lie that we are doing something unspiritual. Sure, nuns and priests are spiritual, but we aren’t.
And yet… cleaning up after a messy baby, cooking a meal for which no one will thank you, refereeing arguments among your kids or employees, serving rude customers, sweating over too many bills and not enough money, filling out the same trivial paperwork or picking up the same socks again… these are the ways we serve. They’re opportunities to practice the presence of God. If we can’t sing a doxology while doing tech support or talking to a social worker, we can remember Who is with us always and offer our real-life service to Him. If we can’t prophesy to the nations or feed the world, we can care for the humans He has put in front of us.
The cubicle worker and the parent doing laundry in the face of God, with intention, and trusting in divine Grace, is offering a sacrifice of service and love that the Lord receives as sweet incense.
And I know some folks whose pain or exhaustion keeps them from feeling like they can serve anyone.
Paul Claudel wrote, “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.” There isn’t any easy comfort to offer. But if physical or mental fatigue has laid us out and we can’t raise a finger or a coherent prayer, we can be still and know that He is God. Not losing hope is a victory.