I think the dog is putting a challenge up to me. I’ve written about Roise before, how she joins in with us when we pray the Angelus. As we respond to the prayers, Roise makes a strange, sing-song baying sound. She’s a pack animal and we are her pack so she wants to join with us. Now, Roise has started her singing when I’m doing the hoovering. She doesn’t do it when anyone else is hoovering – just me – and the rest of them haven’t heard her at it so my family think I’ve finally lost it.
I like the fact that Roise ‘prays’ with us. I think it is cute and funny and says something about prayer being an important part of our lives as a family.
When she started singing along to the hoover I just felt frustrated. What on earth could she find attractive enough about hoovering to make her want to join in with the sound? Because, you see, I don’t like hoovering, or cleaning windows, or washing floors or doing the ironing or even, most of the time, cooking the dinner. I do them because they need to be done and I’m often glad afterwards that I have done them but they aren’t the things that have me bouncing out of bed with enthusiasm in the morning.
I like being out, working with groups, meeting people, feeling that I’m doing something that matters.
If I’m honest I probably like those things because they make me feel good about myself. Running a retreat boosts my ego in a way that getting the hoovering done never will. But my work goes in phases. There are times when I’m juggling half a dozen projects as well as keeping family life running relatively smoothly. Although it can be stressful and a bit manic, I love the buzz and the sense of achievement.
Then there are the times when work is quiet and much of what I am doing is desk-based. I might be writing or developing new programmes but I’m at home doing it. Much of my day will also involve the mundane stuff – the kitchen cupboard that needs sorting so that things stop falling out every time the door is opened, the spring cleaning that cannot be put off any longer. It doesn’t float my boat but it has to be done.
So I hoover and the dog decides to sing! My frustration comes from a sense of “Singing when we pray is fine but there’s no prayer here!”
So here is the challenge. I write and speak and give workshops about the spirituality of family life, about discovering the presence and action of God amidst the ordinary bits and pieces of our lives. Somehow I feel Roise’s singing urges me to live up to my own message and find God right here in the midst of a fairly unexciting routine. I want to shout “Don’t look for God here, I’m only doing the hoovering!” but surely if the spirituality of family life stands up to scrutiny then even here in the hoovering and cleaning God must be present?
So Roise and I have been sitting with this challenge, pondering, reflecting. Well, Roise spends most of the time sleeping but I’ve been pondering. When life feels mundane and in a bit of a rut with nothing exciting happening, where is God? I find myself coming back to the idea of constancy.
We all know that so much of family life is about repeating patterns. Today we may clean a house, feed a family, walk the dog but the task is not completed. We have to do it all again tomorrow and the next day and the next.
Often we don’t do it for great personal fulfillment but because it is somehow part of what makes us family. There is something about the commitment, the constancy that family life asks of us which I believe images God’s utter faithfulness to us.
So maybe doing the hoovering doesn’t give me a buzz but I actually think Roise is right to sing.