Ordinary time

This very uninspiring title of "Ordinary time" is part of the rhythm of the church year. There are the "special" seasons - like Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. But depending upon how many Sundays there are, 33 or 34 weeks within a calendar year are deemed "ordinary." Currently, we are in the 2nd week of ordinary time and will be so until Nov 29th when Advent kicks off a new church calendar year.

Ordinary is just so...ordinary: common, unexceptional, routine, average, mundane, standard, normal. When you hear the word "ordinary," what happens inside of you? A "bleh" or a "please!" Repulsion or relief? Disgust or delight? 

Seriously. "Selah" - Take a short pause to calmly consider ordinary. Breathe deeply, focus your attention on your body and soul, then scan your emotions and any tightness, agitation or relief you feel as you consider how "ordinary" rests on you. What are the connotations, expectations and memories that come to your heart and mind?

As an adjective, ordinary  means:

  • normal or usual: not unusual, different, or special
  • Neither very good nor very bad: not very impressive.
  • In the online urban dictionary, in Australia "ordinary" can mean (in sarcastic understated terms) not good. (i.e. really quite bad).

For each of us, "ordinary" carries some powerful memories and connotations that subtly influence our motivations and expectations of self and others. For some, it was not okay to be an ordinary kid. Excel, stand-out, be noticed. Being ordinary almost seems like a failure.

I remember being practically devastated when my math teacher gave me my only "B" grade in high school - and he did it even though I did "A" work. He said, "You can do better than this" and the lesser grade was given to motivate me toward greater excellence. I missed sharing the valedictorian title because of that one "B" grade (and had to settle for being 4th in my class of 400 instead of tied for 1st!). Here's what's worse - I am now haunted by that shaming phrase and even speak it harshly to myself: "Sheesh Paula, you can do better than this" (or some variation on the theme - "you should know better, you should be the better person, you should try harder, etc.). So ordinary for me is a wee bit repulsive - like who wants to be just ordinary - one of the crowd, unimpressive and average? They are not handing out scholarships and awards for that.

I know others who long for ordinary. Life has been so topsy-turvy and out of control that a normal, unimpressive, unhurried and ordinary routine sounds like a little slice of heaven! An "ordinary" (and unordinary, uninterrupted) soak in a bath tub becomes a restorative oasis!

What is your relationship with ordinary right now? Would you welcome it or are you rejecting it? What do your schedule and activities tell you about how you view ordinary? How do you think this influences your relationship with God (e.g. God would love me more if I could just...) or with yourself (I'd be more pleased with myself if I could just...) or your loved ones (why can't they just...)

I'd love to hear your thoughts and revelations as you reflect on ordinary. There will be more reflections on ordinary in the weeks to come (remember we have nearly six months left of ordinary time!) In what ways might you be invited to reconsider "ordinary" and what questions come up for you as you consider this?