During a conversation this evening, I hit upon an analogy that helps explain how the sacred and secular - the "shallow and profound" - intersect. Credit for this post goes to one of my four favorite sisters.
Our entire lives are spent learning to communicate. As toddlers, our main goals in a life are attention and apple juice, and we possess a vocabulary remarkably suited to these objectives. As we mature, we begin to take an interest in the kinetic, mechanical side of things - us boys anyhow. (Well, girls too, in their own way.) This is the time for screwdrivers and spaceships; (or noodles and needlepoint, if you prefer.)
Our vocabulary begins to grow. We learn to spell beyond four letters. Occasionally, on sultry, God-forsaken afternoons, we have writing assignments. Of course, we resent it, just as a becalmed schooner resents it when the wind begins to fill her sails.
But we keep at it, (growing up,) and the words keep coming. And they keep getting longer, and thicker. Life itself is broadening and reaching in a thousand new directions, and we find we actually need these new words desperately in order to contain these new dimensions.
And here we come to the fundamental thing: vocabularies are accrual. The long, precise words are invaluable, but we find we are still in need of all the short ones in between. Words build together, like a rubber-band ball, around the very elementary core of the language.
And so it is in spiritual things. Profundity is intoxicating, but we must not overlook the humbler ingredients of the pie. We still need the little words. Any skyscraper will tell you that the first floor is strictly essential. The view from the 40th floor is stunning, and we sometimes think we should remove the lower 39 floors because, we say, they are just weighing us down. Rubbish! They are not weighing us down. They are holding us up.
"Precept upon precept, line upon line..." The whole thing is incremental; that is the whole point. We get frustrated about the drudgery of daily life, but we forget that the flights of stairs exist for the view - indeed, for the climb. To put it in bumper-sticker terms, "Don't arrive, thrive!"
Spirituality needs the everyday. We need to be able to talk about baseball, or bologne, or even (gulp) the weather. It is an integrated, living whole, not intended to be chopped up into little pieces and sorted into colored bins.
The life that is whole has God at the center, and a center necessarily implies an outer. Oswald Chambers calls it "the full-orbed life;" most of us are about as full-orbed as a pancake.