For decades the De Moors, spread over two, sometimes three continents, have kept in touch by a monthly newsletter. My sister, Doris, serves as its “mother hen.” This newsletter is a wonderful thing. Because of it we have a concise record of all the important family happenings over all those years. We are able to preserve the voice of a generation now departed, as well as to welcome new ones.
It’s easier to read what others wrote than to contribute to the newsletter myself. I’m blessed with an understanding spouse who does her share without complaint but needs to put my feet to the fire every other month so I’ll do mine. It’s hard for me, because I find it a snore to write up what has already been. That’s my only excuse—short of falling back on the doctrine of total depravity.
When there’s good grist for the mill it’s easier to crawl behind the keyboard than when there really isn’t anything to report. Yet it’s those gaps in the record that I’ve come to view as a great blessing: months when there is nothing to write about.
Maybe we need to discipline ourselves to take a video or two of perfectly normal, ordinary days because those are so very hard to remember. For example, I can still recite all the grisly details of how I crash-dived off the springboard and broke my collarbone in grade 11. What I cannot for the life of me remember is what everyday life was like in the weeks and months around that event. And that’s where we spend most of our time—in the blessedly ordinary time that never sticks in memory.
Jesus’ life on earth was no different. The edges—his birth, his few years of public ministry—are recorded extensively in living multidimensional color (four gospel accounts plus a bunch of epistles). But about the bulk of his life on this planet there’s nary a word, except for one story of getting lost as a “tweener.” The longest stretch, from ages 12 to 30, gets exactly one single verse in one gospel (Luke 2:52).
What that one verse does tell us is that during all that time, Jesus grew in body, mind, and relationships. Good growth is slow and steady. It’s remarkably unremarkable, and therefore unmemorable.
When I conducted family visits in my first congregation, my favorite lead question was: So is it true in your life what the old hymn says, that “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before”?
The honest ones said that it was more like a roller coaster: better some days, worse others. I liked that honesty. But when I asked, “How about over the last ten or twenty years—has your relationship with the Lord improved?” I’d invariably get a positive response. Spiritual growth takes a long time. Usually it is so slow that we don’t really notice. One does not report in a monthly family newsletter that one grew. Yet it may be much more important than the fact that Aunt Martha took a tumble and hurt her knee.
Jesus told a wonderful parable about growth: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matt. 13:33). The growth of God’s kingdom in this world and in our hearts and lives may be invisible. But that makes it no less real and significant.
In a society where we crave thrills like we crave chocolate, it’s good to know that what really, really counts in our lives may, in fact, be nothing to write home about.