Ordinary. It’s a word that for me comes with connotations of boring, even mediocre. Nothing special. Ho-hum.
In the liturgical calendar, that’s where we are now, smack in the middle of the long stretch between Pentecost and Advent. In our earthly life, vacations happens, the school year starts, and harvest-time arrives with brilliant colors [at least in the northeast of the United States]
But life with Jesus can feel quieter and less spectacular during these days. We have no holidays, no celebrations or feasts. The weeks roll on, one after another. Routines which started off soft and malleable have turned into dry, uncomfortable ruts. We’re ready for a little excitement. Fireworks would be nice.
Or a party. Music and dancing–that’s what we need. Anything but the same-old, same-old. We’re not even to the anticipation of Advent, that period of hopeful waiting that we trust will bring release. We feel stuck in the middle period, numb perhaps, not even suffering doubt or uncertainty.
When we read the gospels, life seems anything but ordinary. Healings and powerful preaching. Lives turned upside down and God’s kingdom come. The stories in the rest of the Bible aren’t that much different. We read of God’s spectacular work, His rescue and saving. There are stories of great failures too [try David for starters], usually followed by great grace.
What we don’t read about are the days of ordinary time. The tedium of habits, the long obedience. But they are there, hidden in the cracks of the story. “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” [Luke 2:52] One sentence covers 18 silent years in Jesus’ life. The incarnate God who was born to angelic song and received visitors from afar went quiet, growing up in a small village of 50 houses, off the beaten track.
An anonymous, unheralded life. Obscure and apparently unspectacular. Days lived in silent faithfulness.
Days of winter dryness without grass or beautiful wildflowers. Days without drama. Days without novelty. These are the days that Jesus knew. These are the days that the Father sees.
At this point, it’s hard to resist the urge to finish on a sparkly, spectacular note.
But another word comes to mind which describes this period of ordinary time:
A tree rooted in the soil–you can’t see it grow. Months, even years will go by and it seems like nothing is happening. But the tree is drawing its life from the soil, and responding to the warmth of the sunlight. It is alive: abiding, remaining.
God is working behind the scenes for us. He is involved in our lives even if we are not aware of it. Our heavenly Father is always with us whether we feel His presence or not, because His love, deep and true, is not tied to how we feel about Him. In the midst of regular days and unremarkable hours, He is here, working His purposes.
As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Abide in my love.”
John 15:7, 9
Ordinary days, rooted in love. Amen.