I learned a new word this week: quotidian. For those bookworms among us you might already be familiar with this adjective, but it was new to me. It means commonplace or routine or daily. The word should not be confused with drudgery, as ‘quotidian’ connotes things that aren’t really good or bad; they’re just the commonplace things that make up the warp and weave of daily life. A daily chore could be considered quotidian, as could walking the dogs or performing the same tea-making ritual every morning. Quotidian describes those calm habits and routines that we probably don’t think about very much as we repeat them every day.
Acquiring this new word, I began to think about the quotidian nature of love. If we were to take our guidance only from TV or movies, we would be led to believe that the only worthwhile love is the passionate kind. And while I would argue that love without any passion at all probably isn’t destined for a long life, I might also point out that maintaining the level of passion exhibited in popular fiction would be just as likely to burn out that candle with the same rapidity. Most couples in long term relationships have learned how to make their love quotidian without making it boring.
But can the same be said for our love of Christ? There are portions of the Gospel in which it seems Christ only wants continual, passionate love. He sometimes seems to expect that only followers who show devotion only to him, excluding all others, will be let into the kingdom of heaven. For example, when a man says he will join Jesus just as soon as he says farewell to his family, Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Surely this means that to be fit for the kingdom of God, one must abandon all quotidian pursuits. Yet at other times – in the domestic scenes with Mary and Martha, for example – Jesus seems untroubled by devoted followers contending with every day, quotidian, life. And Paul, the great evangelist who dedicated himself completely to the work of establishing the early church, understood, albeit reluctantly at times, that people might want to do everyday things like get married, have work that supports them, and raise families in a decidedly quotidian environment. Are such as these, undoubtedly the vast majority of Christ followers, unfit for the kingdom of God?
Perhaps here we might go back to the original connotation of quotidian and apply it to faithfully loving Jesus. To reiterate, quotidian generally denotes commonplace things done regularly; things that make up the fabric of daily life. Wouldn’t we all want to say that loving Jesus makes up the fabric of our daily life? Certainly, a quotidian love of Christ is far better than an intermittent love of Christ. And, as we said earlier about a long-term love affair, quotidian does not have to be equivalent to tedium. In fact, quotidian love is probably more equivalent to calmness, confidence and surety. A candle may be lit by a moment of passion from the match, but it can still burn for a long time afterwards.
Perhaps Christ, in parables like the Rich Young Man or the man who wants to bury his father before joining the disciples, is merely pointing out people’s excuses for avoiding a commitment to God, rather than decrying the quotidian nature of life. Christ calls us to put God first in all things – yes, even in a quotidian way – so that we might know the path that leads to the kingdom of God. It’s hard to imagine the daily love of God as a commonplace thing being bad.
I hope I have sufficiently pointed out that a constant quotidian approach to life and love will eventually lead to taking life and love for granted, a condition almost guaranteed to foment disaster. So it is with our love of Jesus as well. There is a meaningful difference between a daily, commonplace love for Jesus and taking Jesus for granted. Or to put it another way, when thoughtlessness becomes quotidian you’re more likely to be on a path towards calamity than towards the kingdom.
With just a few minor tweeks here and there I probably could convert this article into an advice column for the lovelorn on Valentine’s Day, though I doubt Dear Abby would be impressed. But I have said many times before that the way in which we love each other is a reflection of the way in which we love God. If a successful, long term relationship contains a respect for the quotidian nature of love, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same holds true in our love of God? God seeks, first through the Law and then through Christ, a people of thoughtful obedience, where worship is an everyday, commonplace occurrence. God seeks those who will put God first. And God seeks those who remember God every day, with a constant love that is quotidian.