Horatius and the common things of life


What a weekend! A royal wedding, time with the family, the world snooker final, two bank holidays with not a drop of rain in sight, the death of an infamous terrorist leader and the conclusion of a gripping two-part Dr Who season opener. And amidst all of that here I am thinking about The Meaning Of Life.

Bit heavy isn’t it? Bit serious? Ay, indeed. But I’d rather think serious and make my life what it’s supposed to be than just bumble along with an ever-increasing sense of missing out…and holidays seem a good opportunity.

You could be forgiven for thinking, if you don’t know me, that I’m new to the contemplation of the deep and meaningful. But you’d be wrong. For arrogant though it may sound to some, I’ve known for decades what life is about. No, my bank holiday thoughts on “Life, The Universe And Everything” aren’t because I don’t know what we’re here for, but because I do.

(Dramatic pause for breath, or to make tea, as appropriate.)

Almost thirty years ago when I gave my life to Christ I guaranteed where I’d spend eternity in the next life. I’ve also come to grasp that the point of my life until then is to please God and contribute to his Grand Mission – getting as many people as possible into heaven!

In turn, doing this pleasing and contributing breaks down (at least in my mind, which after all is what you should expect if you read a fellow’s blog) into two major bits. I call these The Obviously Spiritual and The Common Things of Life. The former consists of things like prayer, Bible reading, going to church or speaking about Jesus (not that I do that very often).

I feel I know a lot about The Obviously Spiritual and try to learn, grow and basically get on with it. But the other challenge I have in view at the moment is to practice walking with God in The Common Things of Life.

Let me explain, first of all, my rather quaint-sounding name for this concept. I know there are Bible verses that speak of serving God in “ordinary” activities such as we all either have to do or choose to do. But as I was ruminating in between Britain’s Got Talent and the next piece of Easter egg, an old hymn came to mind. We used to sing Fill thou my life, O Lord my God at school and I remember thinking then, not yet a Christian, that it seemed to aspire to an ideal so lofty as to be unobtainable. Yet to me today the words seem to encapsulate exactly the place I want to get to in living everyday life.

The hymn was written by Horatius Bonar in 1866 and is a prayer that God will so work in the singer’s life that it will be completely characterised by praise and adoration of God, pretty much 24/7, as they say. It includes this verse:

Praise in the common things of life,
its goings out and in;
praise in each duty and deed,
however small and mean.

…from which cameth my title and my name for that part of life which needs working on, that is, the stuff we spend most time and energy on, viz a viz working, changing beds, washing the dishes, looking after the kids, doing the tax return, fishing socks out of the washing machine, eating, shopping and so on and so forth.

I trust you have valiantly stuck with me and have finally been rewarded with at least a hint of an inkling of a vague idea of what on earth I’m babbling about.

So, dear Horatius, little did you realise 145 years ago the impact you would have on this particular fellow believer, contemplating as he is the post-holiday return to work and The Common Things Of Life.

As to the understanding and outworking of this part of living for Christ, I suspect it ought to start with being thankful. Not, as they say, rocket science, and not even new to me, but highly Biblical and my first port of call, at least for now.

Remind me of that, and of Horatius and TCTOL, will you, next time you hear me bemoan my lot? I promise to appreciate it.



And here, naturally, is the complete hymn for your consideration.

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God

Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,
in every part with praise,
that my whole being may proclaim
thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,
nor e’en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up
of praise in every part!

Praise in the common things of life,
its goings out and in;
praise in each duty and deed,
however small and mean.

Fill every part of me with praise;
let all my being speak
of thee and of thy love, O Lord,
poor though I be, and weak.

So shalt thou, Lord, from me, e’en me,
receive the glory due;
and so shall I begin on earth
the song forever new.

So shall no part of day or night
from sacredness be free;
but all my life, in every step
be fellowship with thee.

Words: Horatius Bonar, 1866
Music: Richmond