Photo credit: Sandy Reich
This past Sunday was Pentecost, which marks the end of Eastertide and the beginning of Ordinary Time. The word “Ordinary” has historically been used to describe the parts of a church service that are unchanging. In 1969 the Vatican Council coined the term “Ordinary Time” to mark the season between Pentecost and Advent. This is the longest season (by far) in the church year. It can be easy to overlook it, as Ordinary Time doesn’t feel particularly important or special. The decorations are down and we are months away from big holidays or feasts. It’s just … ordinary. And yet, more than half of the year (and of our life) happens within this season.
Jessica Snell, in her book, Let Us Keep the Feast, says this about the season: “Ordinary Time is our chance to be whole people — integrated people, for whom Christmas and Easter are not isolated holidays, but life-changing events that have transformed the very fabric of the world and our experience in it. We are to become people in who the Living God grows and breathes and inspires work, which brings [God] glory. Ordinary Time is the season in which we become saints by the daily – that our lives would reflect the glory of Christ.”
Author Sarah Bessey says that “the real transformations in my spirit and my character and my life were born and tended and raised in the daily mundane habits and faithfulness of my life.” Daily mundane habits — doing the dishes, dropping off kids at school, making eye contact with the cashier, giving and receiving forgiveness, a quiet prayer before getting out of bed, or as I drift off to sleep at night — this is where transformation takes place.
My son turned 11 this spring and he will begin middle school in the fall. I can tell we are on the cusp of some relational changes as he desires more independence and individuation.
Last month I had the idea that we should run a 5k together. I asked partly because there is no recess in middle school and he prefers a book or a tablet to the playground these days. But I also asked him in hopes of finding a new way to connect. I fully expected to have to convince him, but to my surprise, he said “yes” right away! We found a guide online to slowly work up to the longer run, but three nights per week for more than a month now we’ve been out walking and jogging the neighborhood.
Three half-hour jogs per week add up to about 90 minutes of time. This doesn’t seem like much considering each week holds more than 10,000 minutes. But on our jogs, we’ve covered what seem like endless conversation topics. There has been much talk of Minecraft, yes, but also systemic racism, sibling squabbles, gun reform, my own middle school years, and what makes a good friend. In these relatively few minutes per week, I have felt the budding of a new kind of relationship. One that relies less on directives and reminders, and is slowly transforming into a kind of knowing one another. A relationship where I am not trusted simply because I feed him or keep him safe, but because he is listened to and loved as he is.
And so, as we move into Ordinary Time, I have begun to wonder. What in my life could be the equivalent of a 30-minute jog around the neighborhood but has the potential to birth a new kind of relationship with God? A relationship that relies less on directives and becomes a new kind of knowing one another.
So often with spiritual practices we make them about what we can give or do. During Advent we often give our time, or gifts to those in need. During Lent we fast, giving up something in the name of intimacy or closeness with God. But Ordinary Time is different. There is no prescribed way to observe this season. During Ordinary Time we just live our very ordinary lives. If we view this season through the lens offered by Snell and Bessey, it becomes a chance to be whole people who are in process, transforming little by little through our daily mundane habits.