Washing the Second Step
by Natalie Tedder at The Gratitude of Wasps
Today’s entry doesn’t fit squarely into the Florilegium, it’s a composite of three quotations that have linked together in my mind, holding hands in a circle. I thought these passages prudent as we’re all thrust headlong into the school year.
The first comes from the prayer journal of Flannery O’Connor— I’ve not read the whole journal, but I keep coming upon this line and it so deeply resonates with me. Flannery writes:
“But dear God please give me some place, no matter how small, but let me know it and keep it. If I am the one to wash the second step everyday, let me know it and let me wash it and let my heart overflow with love washing it.”
In a world where the common call to people my age is to do big, enormous, ambitious things, it’s an act of resistance to stay rooted and revel in the mundane. And it’s also an act that takes me a great deal of courage. When I feel overwhelmed in my work, relationships, and world, it is too easy to desire the next best thing, too easy for me to see this season as a mere stepping stone leading to my “real adult life” that hasn’t arrived yet. So it’s often my prayer that the Lord opens my eyes to what’s right in front of me, that He would help me to love my people well, to do my job well, heartily, as unto the Lord.
However, the longing and groaning aren’t without cause. The broken and hard things underpinning my work, relationships, and world remind me that this is not my home. We walk through our days with with holy longing, pilgrim-hearted and glory bound.
It makes me think of of Psalm 84. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (v 1-2). But the verse in Psalm 84 that really moves me and makes me think of the O’Connor quotation is verse 10, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” This verse seems to ring with O’Connor’s plea of washing the second step: relishing and rejoicing in a small job, knowing it to be for the Lord. God may call some of us to platforms of large influence, but most of us will live precious yet relatively unspectacular lives. So I seek to dwell with the Lord in both the eternal and present, heaven and creation. Here and now, I hope to continually trek the path He has laid before me.
This brings me to my last quotation, the closing line from one of my favorite novels, Middlemarch by George Eliot. Our narrator closes, “For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Just kidding— well— not really. I think of this quotation weekly, if not sometimes daily. As I long for eternity, the heavenly courts of the Lord, it shapes the way I view my everyday. I’m not made for this earth, but the Lord has me here for a reason. As Flannery asks to rejoice in washing the second step, and David confesses the great privilege of keeping the door, I likewise hope to live faithfully a hidden life, giving glory to my Maker.
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