Ordinary Time

I heard the other day that no one in this wide world likes to use the word ordinary. I suppose that's true, though I have started taking a liking to the sound and the truth of it.

I guess that makes us think of average and none of us want to be average. I can remember meeting with my Calculus professor in college over my C grade in his class. I was mortified, crushed. That could not be right. I was an A student. What about points for sweat and struggle? There were no points for effort, only results. He was quick to point out that C is average work, like a large portion of the class. To be an A student, or even a B student, I would need to be exemplary, beyond the expectation.

That was the year I learned I was one of the herd, nothing to rise above the ordinary. Disheartening. Thankfully, that was also the year I learned that Jesus' love for me, an average girl, was not a grade based on my performance. His was a Risen love, Ordinary everyday and Resurrected. Heartening.

Ordinary is a reminder of the everyday. Plain and simple, yes, but not necessarily boring; also full of life and breath and significance. I am thinking of rhythms and increments and often occurrences, so often as to not count them. I drink water everyday. I sleep everyday. I draw breath everyday. I blink and swallow and stand everyday. The sun comes up everyday. God loves me everyday. There are countless things that happen everyday even if we do not see or appreciate them. The grass grows, the seasons turn slightly, babies are born, the stars shine, rivers flow to the sea, people meet and fall in love. If you think about it, these are all little miracles really.

As I have told you, though I have followed Jesus for a while now, I am fairly new to observing all the seasons around His life. My new calendar starts with Advent and moves through to Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is one of the new ones to me. Technically, Ordinary Time is the season between Pentecost and Advent and in some practices, the time between Epiphany and Lent as well. In that view, right now is Ordinary Time at least until next Wednesday, Ash Wednesday when we will remind ourselves we are but dust. Ordinary.

But really, Ordinary Time is most of the time. It is the between times when we can think nothing of significance is happening. But another way to look at it, is that rather than focusing on a particular event, we are slowing down to see the wholeness of God's story of which we are invited to participate. When we slow down to Ordinary Time, we can see the tender caring that God has woven into our everyday lives.

It reminds me of the years of raising our four little children. There were plenty of endless days of laundry, wiping bottoms, making PB & J's, picking up legos, drying tears and sweeping crumbs. You could wonder if anything much was really happening when you looked around and all the same stuff needed doing again. But it all counted! Somehow, all those ordinary things done by my hands are tucked into my children's hearts and souls.And that is another meaning of Ordinary Time, a counting time.

By some countings, Ordinary Time is 33 weeks, just the number of years that Jesus walked this dirt we call home-for-now. That makes me think these plain old weeks have significance. But not just their number, though that caught my attention, but the fact that the Holy dipped down into ordinary humanity, in all its sweat, skin and struggle, all the frailty and risky love that it took to come down a birth canal in rivers of blood and water.

When I miscarried right in the middle of the birth of our first two whippersnappers and the births of the last two, my wise and beloved Dr. Vick told me something I have never forgotten and which seems to speak into our mistaken ideas of Ordinary. He suggested that we sometimes feel betrayed by things not coming together as we expected, but miss the miracle that they come together everyday without us giving it a second thought. Birth is even more of a miracle when you realize all that had to come together in just the right way at just the right time. How does it come together at all, ever?

Maybe Ordinary Time is for counting blessings. What exactly is a blessing can sometimes surprise us. For me, I can count those times I miscarried (it turned out there were two) as the point when I truly learned that God was good, even with my shattered hopes. Mike and I weren't celebrating a new baby as we had anticipated, our lives seemed to go back to the ordinary, but then again, we knew more about God and how He loves us and also less, because His ways were bigger and stronger than we had first imagined. That's Mystery, the union of the sacred and the ordinary.

So as I rest in Ordinary Time, knowing that God counts every little everyday thing; hairs on my head, birds in the sky, waves on the shore. I am drawing near to Him by counting as blessings a few ordinary things: cups of coffee, naps, tears, freckles, smiles, new wrinkles around my eyes, every morning dawning, every night falling, the blank page, another rainy day, meals around the table, clattering pots and pans that need washing, counters that need wiping, floors that need sweeping, babies that need rocking and meetings at the office. These are all signs of life being lived, of rhythms of the in and out of everyday, the plain old ordinary clay pots. But y'all, in Ordinary Time clay pots can hold glory.

Ordinary gets a bad rap in this world, but I'm not so sure it does in God's view. Ordinary is beautiful. Ordinary is sacred. Ordinary is Big Love at its deepest truth. Otherwise, why did the Holy become human? Why did He share in our blood and sweat and tears and dirt and laughter and weddings?

I can see now that my Calculus professor got me started in the right direction, he just didn't go far enough. I can see now that I am both ordinary and precious. Like everyone else, like you. Like my Savior. Given to Him, God can make my Ordinary Time count for something.

He already has. I am just beginning to see it is all.