The unordinariness of ordinary time

October 15, 2017 3:43 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

My life is currently the most ordinary it has ever been. Michael and I are not pursuing any more degrees (that meany husband of mine says I am cut off from school, oh the oppression!), we are not moving, I am doing the same job I did last year, and I am not pregnant. Oh, how I have been longing for ordinary – and it is wonderful to be here.  However, “ordinary” life has turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated…

We are currently in the period of the Christian year generally designated as Ordinary Time. The term doesn’t actually have anything to do with normalcy, but rather comes from the term ordinal, referring to numbers. The weeks following Pentecost and leading up to Advent are simply cataloged by their number. They are not times of fasting or trial; they are not times of feasting and celebration. They are ordinary.

I love having a goal, a purpose, structure.  I love the rhythms of life that include intense effort and fasting of all sorts that make those culminating celebrations all the sweeter. I understand the purpose; I understand the goal. But what about ordinary time? It takes up more than half the year! It takes up the majority of most of our lives. What does God do with the ordinary times in our lives?

This summer, I began reading to my five-year-old daughter Abby from Catherine Vos’, The Child’s Story Bible

[PSA this was written in the thirties, and there is a lot less editing done on these stories than in our contemporary children’s Bible’s. I LOVE reading it aloud, however, you know, Samson appears in all his… glory… and there’s a lot of killing and well, stuff that’s actually in the Bible. It’s not exactly G rated. So, if you choose to read this with your little people, which you totally should, note that you may find yourself skipping some chapters.]

So as Abby and I are following the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings through Exodus … Leviticus … Numbers …Deuteronomy … my blonde headed question producer pipes up one day with, “MOM, why have they been in the desert for SO LONG?!” Well of course Scripture gives us a good number of reasons, which frankly, the five-year-old had been privy to during this entire reading. But, really, why forty years of wandering? Forty years of being fed from heaven but eating the same food every day; the same desert landscape, literally walking in circles?

And then I heard myself say, more for myself than for my child, “I think God needed all that time to get Egypt out of them.”

They had been rescued from slavery! But they had spent 400 years in captivity in a pagan land. The move from pagan slave to free, chosen people of God, is not a transformation that can be accomplished in a single moment. They were not yet ready for the feasting of the promised land. They needed some ordinary time.

God saves us from our slavery to sin, Christ has taken us from the jaws of Hell, yet the Spirit’s work in sanctification takes time, and a lot of this time is incredibly ordinary. In my own life, God has often used big events to get my attention. I’ve had “growth spurts” and revelations, but most of the sanctification God has worked into my own life happens through a long slow drip of ordinary. It’s done through meal preparation, changing diapers, days of laundry, correcting citations and pointing out that there is more than one Scarlatti (#musichistoryteacherproblems). God is using these ordinary days to train my heart to understand that the greatest of challenges, as well as the most mundane of tasks, are all to be done through a posture of prayer and worship. He is using these ordinary days to further ingrain in me that I need his sustaining power to live out ordinary days with wisdom and virtue. Sometimes even more so than through the extraordinary days. Sometimes God’s work in retraining our loves and desires is done through monotonous days in the wilderness with no change in routine, diet, or scenery: still difficult, but not always exciting to talk about.

Dear Millenial generation, a plea from one of your own: we have been deceived into believing that important things in life only happen through great experiences and new adventures. This lie has robbed us of noticing God’s work in our ordinary, our unexciting. The everyday is far more powerful in shaping who you are than the someday.

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This post was written by Nicki