Embracing Ordinary Time

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“I’m kinda glad it’s over, and kinda sad it’s over,” the woman cutting my hair said. We’d been talking about the holidays, and I felt the truth of her statement. As a mother, especially, I enjoy the holidays, but there is a lot of build up to Christmas and the school break. It can be exhausting. And then what? The high ends, the weariness sets in, and the days stretch in front of us without a lot of fanfare in sight. Christmas is not the only time we have big events come and go only to leave us a bit empty – vacations and birthdays in normal years; graduations, weddings, and babies in extraordinary years. How do we deal with the routine, normal days when we’re given the impression that life should be special all the time? Especially in the time of social media when we only see the highlights that people post, what should we do in the meantime?

The liturgical calendar that many Christian churches follow, including my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), reflects life in this way. We start the church year with Advent waiting for Christmas, then in quick succession, we have Christmas, then Ephiphany, only to jump to remembering Jesus’ baptism (we age Jesus from infant to 30-year-old-man in a week). We have additional seasons like Lent, which prepares us for the sacred holiday of Easter celebrating the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion and death. The Easter season ends with Pentecost, which focuses on the Holy Spirit’s work in the church. But the majority of time in the calendar is designated as “Ordinary Time.” The regular days in between the big events are simply ordinary, even in the church. 

And maybe there’s an important lesson in that for us. I get antsy when I feel like I don’t accomplish something significant in a day’s time. I feel unproductive or worse, lazy, when I rest, because I’ve “wasted” time. I fall into the trap of thinking every day should be headline making, or I’ve failed. But some days are just ordinary, and that’s okay. We don’t need a post-worthy caption for every single day. 

I know some folks embrace the philosophy of living every day like it’s their last. And perhaps there is some value in the motto in that we should treat people well every day. We don’t want to approach everyone we encounter with a rant or in a fit of rage that could haunt us whether it’s the last or one of many days. But for some of us, that pithy saying creates pressure that is both unrealistic and anxiety producing. If every day is not amazing, then maybe we aren’t doing “all” we can. 

If we could accept that most of the time is ordinary time, we might become more content with our daily routines and have less of a letdown after the momentous events. We might even crave the quieter times. We could work to establish more balanced schedules. We could dismiss stress as a sign of success. Ordinary time could become the season we seek and even cherish. If God’s church experiences large swaths of ordinary time, then so can we. Let us make an effort to embrace the ordinary as part of God’s plan for us – as a demonstration of God’s care and love. Thanks be to God for the ordinary times.    

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