“He’s so heavenly minded, I swear he is of no earthly good,” said a woman I know about a man she loves. She smiles at me with a knowing wink. She assumes I know of men such as this but I do not. I get what she’s saying, but I disagree with her assessment. What she wants me to understand is that there is something so profoundly spiritual about this man that to ask him to hold a job or change a diaper is to somehow diminish him. And so she redoubles her efforts at earthly good. She works hard all day and then comes home at night to a husband and four children in need of a good meal, a bath, and homework help. She plows through that work, takes time to try to straighten the house, maybe squeeze in a load of laundry, and if she’s lucky watch late night news before falling into bed. Her husband explains to her that he needs time to think, read, and ponder. He does not have time for “trivial pursuits”. She accepts this as if it were the gospel.
But I’ve read the gospels, and I dare to differ with the definition of heavenly minded. Reading through them, we see men and women do all sorts of things as an expression of their spiritual hunger and thirst. They fish; they follow; they lead; they injure; they heal; they repair nets; they sit in prison; they cook meals; they eat meals; they betray; they are loyal; they listen and learn; they speak and teach; they work as servants and masters; they are rich and poor; they are powerful and powerless. But not a single one of them, as far as I can tell, is asked to use their spirituality as an excuse to fail to follow the way of love: cherish and respect our spouses, provide safety and nurturance for our children, to treat all people with respect. These are humble things but oh so important to the ones who receive the benefit of this inspired way of living. It’s fine to never marry, but if we DO marry, we are told to love well. Even Jesus, hanging on the cross, makes provision for his mother. He was not for one second so heavenly minded that the things of earth did not matter. My husband and I recently moved out of our home so that a renovation project could be accomplished without us underfoot. As we packed up and moved furniture out of the way of the work, when we chose what we would take to our temporary abode, loading the car over the course of weeks and going various places – Goodwill, the dump, and finally to our temporary shelter – Pete and I worked in sync with very few words of explanation needed. I took a load of clothes and put them in his car, he saw them and carried them into our new closet. I cooked dinner while he ran over to the house and grabbed his office supplies, then he cleared the dishes and loaded the dishwasher while I unpacked. I thought about how heavenly it is to be married to a man who understands that God is present in this place. No job too small, or too large, he is the kind of guy who just digs in and gets stuff done. I have known him long enough to know that he has grown into this role; he didn’t show up for our wedding with these sensibilities. But over the years, as he’s grown in his awareness of who God is, he has been able to translate into presence and action how he thinks God would have him show up as a husband and father, employer and employee, friend, coach, teacher, and overall decent human being. Today, see what needs doing right in front of you. A door held open for a stranger, perhaps? A follow up phone call expressing appreciation for kindness shown? What about setting aside what you might want to do so that you can listen to another person who needs to feel heard? Small next right steps can make a big difference. They are very very heavenly!