I realised with a start today that we’re already a week into Ordinary Time, that big empty space on the Christian calendar that falls between Pentecost and Advent. I’m not sure I like ordinary time. I don’t know what to do with this uninterrupted expanse.
I’m used to the gentle spiritual practices of Advent and Lent as we wait and prepare, the constant awareness of those seasons. I love the celebration of Christmas and Easter, with their colourful decorations and joyous feasting and loud singing. Pentecost is one big party and the Baptisms always make me cry. And if I’m allowed a favourite, mine might just be the mystery and magic of Epiphany.
These seasons and days are a loved and needed pattern to my year. Until we get to this week and there are just months of lazy summer and busy autumn until Advent Sunday finally rolls around again. I worry that without the structure and instruction of the calendar, I’ll drift away into the same emptiness that engulfs my planner, forget to keep my eyes and heart turned to the One who showed me what love looks like.
Maybe the deeper truth is that the idea of Ordinary scares me a bit. I don’t want ordinary–I want extraordinary. I want a life bursting into fireworks, days that light up like mountain-top beacons. I grew up singing anthems at massive Christian youth rallies that proclaimed I’m going to be a history maker in this land. Ordinary is not what I was promised, not what I promised to become.
And yet my life looks so very ordinary. I live in a remarkably unremarkable suburb of London at the end of the Tube line. I stay home with my one-year-old and nearly three-year-old. Our days are filled with park trips and supermarket runs and me desperately praying they will nap at the same time, so I get at least one hot cup of coffee.
Maybe this is why I don’t enjoy realising I am entering this season of Ordinary Time, because it reminds me just how ordinary all my time is, and I don’t like it. It gently asks me to notice the pride behind my frustration, the self-absorption behind my thwarted desire to do “great things for God.” And I don’t like that either. Because if I can’t be doing something extraordinary, I at least want to be able to wallow in my supposed martyrdom and holy self-pity.
With nothing to do—no feasts to celebrate, no fasts to observe—I have nowhere to left to hide. The truth is, I am really good at talking about finding the sacred in the ordinary, and really bad at actually doing it. This post has been written two lines at a time, interrupted by toddlers who wouldn’t nap, a little girl who wanted me to try her sand cupcake (sand and laptops don’t mix), siblings who inexplicably always want to play with exactly the same toy at the same time … and there may have been a moment I slammed my hand down on the table in angry frustration and yelled one of the “bad words” my daughter is not supposed to repeat in polite company.
I’m unlearning a lifetime of false expectations about the life God promises me. I’m desperately seeking out the writers–my claimed patron saints and midwives—who managed to find God amongst the mundane and the average and the unremarkable.
It feels like a loss, this letting go of the life I thought I was promised, to take up the life I have here and now. And like any other loss, one of my greatest temptations is denial. I tell myself it will change any moment now and I’ll be catapulted into the extraordinary chapter of my life. I find endless ways to distract myself from my present reality, not wanting to lean into the pain of that loss. Because it feels wrong to even feel it as painful. This is a good life, with so many gifts; I should be grateful, right?
My life—like yours, too, probably—is a jumble of seeming contradictions, and so I am grateful even in my ingratitude, I experience joy even as I experience loss. I spend many days struggling to see any of this as holy, and then I sit down once a month with my Spiritual Director and she holds up the mirror to my own life and suddenly it is beautiful and sacred and right. Nothing changed. I am still changing the same nappies, still vacuuming the same crumbs under seats, still trying to get up the courage to talk to my neighbours.
What changes is the perspective. I need help in this. I find it so hard to see the holy in my own life (in everyone else’s—sure) until someone reflects my own words back to me, my own ordinary actions and thoughts. I keep waking up again and again, shaken gently to consciousness by my fellow pilgrims in this ordinary world.
The Earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness. May I learn to let myself be filled up with all this ordinary holiness.
This post originally appeared at She Loves Magazine.
Do you struggle with feeling like your life is much more ordinary than you ever imagined? What do you do to remind yourself that everything is sacred?