The Gift of the Ordinary

Since graduating from Spring Arbor University two months ago my soul has been afflicted with a deep and annoying restlessness. I suppose one could chock it up to a famine of soul following a three-year feast – like standing alone in a banquet hall, glasses and plates strewn about hinting at that which had gone before but now lacking the music and the guests. Perhaps it hints at the profound relief from the constant and insistent requirements of completing assignments. Might it even be a spiritual acedia (the monastics called this the “noon-day demon;” a spiritual laissez faire) finally having its way with me after being held at bay for so long? Is it biological? Chemical? Indigestion?

Whatever it is I wish it would make a speedy exit from my interior life. It seems to me that happiness (however we define the term) and comfort, the very things I am so often grasping after are actually enemies to the spiritual fervor I crave. Apparently, I do best under adverse circumstances. Crap.

It is an interesting coincidence that the liturgical calendar places us in ‘ordinary time.’ What I both love and hate about that is the external imposition of a chronos in which to learn kairos. It is an outward reality giving us the framework in which to sow the seeds of grace toward our growth in salvation. To add further complexity, this has converged with our unnecessarily long summer schedule when routines are challenged and stretched beyond recognition.

I tend to fall apart in these periods. Faithfulness is sometimes most difficult when all is well and such faithfulness goes unnoticed one way or the other. When we have nothing to gain from faithfulness is the precise moment when it is most crucial. For me, now is that time.

There is mystery in the idea of ordinary time. While everything around us may show little or no daily change there emerges within us the slow, almost imperceptible greenery of spiritual life. There is nothing ordinary in the growth of living things. It is as miraculous as it is beautiful. It is also slow enough as to render moment-by-moment changes impossible yet mysterious enough that to look away for a single day is to miss the biological sweatshop that has invisibly produced a most magnificent result.

Something comes to mind as I reflect upon this. We gain little by staring at ourselves, craning our necks and squinting our eyes to see our own growth. Such endeavors inevitably result in discouragement or even cynicism. Keeping our eyes fixed on the long-term process of growth and marveling at it is that which yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness and with it, our most abiding joy. Someone once said that we’re always frustrated by how little we accomplish in a day and how much we accomplish in ten years. That is the gift of ordinary time. It forces our eyes up to the sky instead of buried in the soil. Sun in the eyes is always a better option than dirt up the nose.

Together on the journey, Rob

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