Editor’s note: This is the last entry of “Extraordinary ordinary presence,” a three-part series from ELCA pastor Jordan Miller-Stubbendick on noticing God at work in mundane moments, and what this might teach us about our Lutheran faith. Read part one and part two.
Around this time of year, I feel a strong desire to clean out my closet. There’s something about the promise of spring that motivates me to get off the couch and take inventory of what I no longer need, and what could be passed along to someone who could use it. Maybe I try to make room for spring in my life by making space in my dresser drawers.
Where I live, spring comes unevenly and often takes a long time to arrive, but eventually flowers do bloom and the temperature does grow more gentle. I find that something similar happens when I am cleaning out clothes. What works best is to go with my gut, trust my first instinct and make a clear decision: keep or give away.
If I think about it too much, I can easily cling to many things that I might need in some future winter instead of letting things go and making space for spring breezes to blow in. I can talk myself into keeping just about anything on the slim chance that I might want to use it again someday.
I need to remember often that, in matters great and small, God is continually making space for that which is healing, grounded in justice and full of love.
Trusting my gut when I clean out clothes has served me well for the most part, but one shirt seems to be exempt. I have worn this shirt once, maybe twice. I have held onto it for years, through three moves, a degree program and two job changes. The shirt is a rich, muted gold, made of soft, drapey fabric. I bought it at a favorite local store that has a big sale every year between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. When I first picked it up, I imagined myself wearing it to a fancy New Year’s Eve party, even though my current season of life with young children means that I spend New Year’s Eve at home in my pajamas and may not even be awake at midnight.
More than anything about the shirt itself, what drew me in and still captivates me was the sense of possibility. Wearing this shirt, I can imagine my husband and me someday going to a New Year’s Eve party with champagne and dancing, where you dress up, leave the house and stay up well past midnight. I can envision new adventures, people to meet and places to go. In this time when the whole world is trying to figure out what comes after a global pandemic, I appreciate the invitation to imagine the future.
Romans 4:16-17 tells of God calling into existence things that do not exist and giving life to the dead for all who share the faith of Abraham. I find it comforting and hopeful to remember that there are new possibilities I haven’t yet imagined in this life of faith. I need to remember often that, in matters great and small, God is continually making space for that which is healing, grounded in justice and full of love. What good news might be on the way today or next month? What I can see and imagine and believe in at this moment isn’t all there is.
That’s why I keep my muted gold shirt in my dresser drawer—because sometimes I need a visible, tangible reminder that God brings life from places where I can see only death, that God brings into being things that do not yet exist. Even if I never wear this shirt again, seeing it helps me remember what could be, what God is maybe even now bringing to life.