An Everyday Theology: My Personal Reflections
November 30, 2020
Shaunesse’ is a PhD student at Boston University studying ethics and theology, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow.
Raging forest fires, a devastating global pandemic, dictatorial rulers, corruption, voter suppression, police brutality, and innumerable unwarranted deaths. These are but a few descriptors that comprise “everyday” in 2020. What does an everyday God look like in a stretch of time that defies all notions of daily life experienced by most people today? I have wrestled with this question since recovering from a two-month bout with COVID-19, and I am still unsure what to write. While I believe that God is an everyday God, I have no clue how to be in relationship with God in the here and now. I have no clue how to articulate faith in the God I am hoping for because I remain unsettled by the God I am encountering. Furthermore, I have no clue what sources to pursue to inform any sort of ethical framing that makes sense of how God is calling us to live in an everchanging and chaotically spiraling world.
As a Black Baptist who grew up in northern Louisiana, I am quite fond of the powerful manifestations of God. Whether God is guiding a group of refugees extensively through wildernesses to avoid war with neighboring tribes after fleeing a nation that forgot about their contributions to building a society, or God decides to fashion Godself in human form to dwell among mortals and provide a revolutionary example of love, the God I initially came to know and love entered the world in dramatic fashion and left memories of these encounters so strong humans told the stories for generations. They wrote love songs and constantly yearned for these encounters to orient their worlds and the turbulence of their lives. That God made sense to me in ways that helped me navigate traumas and trials, grief and guilt, despair and despondency. I no longer have a clue how to access that God as my life has turned inwardly and I am forced to learn innovative ways to remain settled in the overly familiar presence of my home. I must now seek a God who daily is and daily persists with me.
Discovering God on this daily level feels like an ethical pursuit in and of itself. I must require of myself patience and strong listening skills to remain open and attentive to the ways God whispers to me. Having rarely been forced to be still with God consistently, I have found myself yelling out, trying to goad God into noise-making and dramatic encounters; yet, God continues to whisper. God whispers to me that I must rest and care for my body. I must regularly check in with friends and family, not only for their wellbeing, but also for my own. I must fulfill the mundane tasks of life, eventually finding joy in them, because there is nowhere to run and no large, praiseworthy task to prioritize. I must enjoy every moment that I am alive, finally reckoning with human fragility if I am to be an advocate for communities across the U.S. seeking a better life. I must learn value in the simple before I can stand before others articulating the complex. This season of learning how to be in relationship with an everyday God demands daily action. And there are no distractions, nowhere to run, and no time but now.
Learning how to be in relationship with an everyday God means I am learning how to be in relationship with an everyday self. I am learning how to love and care for myself, then others, then those who come after them. The first example that comes to mind is COVID-19. Any time I need to make a grocery store run and follow twenty-eight-year patterns of leaving home with only my wallet and keys, God whispers to me to grab my mask because I wear my mask to protect myself and my neighbor. Any time I read news stories of Anti-Asian violence and discrimination, I express gratitude that I am safe. Then God whispers to me to check on my friends who identify as Asian to ensure that they are safe and have not experienced similar incidents. Any time I encounter someone I have not seen in months I initially desire to hug them. God then whispers, affirming our love and reminding me that our distance protects one another and our families. God has not entered 2020 in dramatic fashion to produce a vaccine immediately available to all for this life-threatening virus, stop national leaders from supporting false information, nor solve state-sanctioned, police-initiated violence. But God continues to whisper to us all to share everyday, attentive actions we can perform to love one another well.
I began this piece not knowing what to say, only to have God whisper to me that God, in God’s everyday encounters, is reminding us of everyday actions we can take. These actions create a communitarian ethic that recognizes God’s image in each of us and holds us accountable to loving one another as well as we desire to love God. God stepping into our world and changing the fabrics of time with all of God’s glory and regality energizes us to tell of God’s divinity to future generations. I am thankful for such stories and encounters. And now I am also thankful for God’s everyday whispers as we exist regularly together, ensuring that are lives are lived in a way that respects and cherishes other lives every day. God is an everyday God who has consoled my shifting emotions with each day of uncertainty, calmed my anxiety when feeling overwhelmed by my work, sent me laughs when all I wanted to do was cry, and whispered of God’s continued presence no matter what social conditions say. I share these whispers with others that we may love one another better every day. And we thank God for the powerful entrances and the calming whispers.