Ordinary – of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional. Think with me for a minute about your day. For most of us, my guess is that our days tend to be commonplace, unexceptional, and all too often of no special quality. What if there was another way to look at the ordinary nature of our days and discover something magical, something sacred?
The Practice of the Presence of God details the pursuit of holiness by Brother Lawrence
He said that our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God rather than for ourselves.The Practice of the Presence of God (p. 24) emphasis mine
The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was to simply do his ordinary work. He did this obediently, out of a pure love of God, purifying it as much as was humanly possible. He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other. Our actions should unite us with God when we are involved in our daily activities, just as our prayers unite us with him in our quiet devotions
So, what is the ordinary work that you spend your days doing? Can you look at that in a new way such that you are united to God in the midst of that mundane?
In his book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K.A. Smith comments that “If you are what you love, and your ultimate loves are formed and aimed by your immersion in practices and cultural rituals, then such practices fundamentally shape who you are.” (p. 22) Smith refers to these practices as “cultural liturgies.” Don’t get hung up on the word “liturgy.” For Smith, a liturgy is simply a formative ritual that shapes who we are and what we love. Liturgies are those things that shape our ordinary days.
And if we want to love rightly, we need to make sure that our daily liturgies are shaping our hearts in the right way. We need liturgies that will calibrate our hearts to point towards our true North – God and His kingdom. I want to suggest that we can combine what Brother Lawrence and Jamie Smith are discussing and move from the ordinary to the sacred.
…we should be concerned about the ethos of our households–the unspoken “vibe” carried in our daily rituals. Every household has a “hum,” and that hum has a tune that is attuned to some end…We need to tune our homes, and thus our hearts, to sing his grace.You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, p. 127
Smith recommends that we take a liturgical audit of our households. What are the habits, routines, ordinary activities that your household engages in that are shaping you? Think about what you do in the mornings – how do you prepare for your day? Mealtimes can be a critical component of transforming the ordinary into the sacred. Do you eat in front of the television or do you share your table?
And let’s not forget our recreation and free time. How do you spend your weekends and holidays? What family traditions do you practice? How do you celebrate birthdays and anniversaries (even marking painful dates)?
Can I make a plug here for the liturgical calendar? If you didn’t grow up in a more “formal” church, you may not even know what the liturgical calendar is. The liturgical calendar divides the year into six different seasons that tell the Gospel story throughout the year. Many Christian traditions then read from a lectionary – a set cycle of Scripture readings that walk through that Gospel story in the seasons of the year. The daily rhythm of reading Scripture, of marking time with the Gospel story roots me in a more biblical liturgy that shapes my loves toward Christ.
I’ve written before on celebrations of Lent and Advent. Do you mark those seasons in your home? Don’t be intimidated or scared off by misperceptions of what it might look like to incorporate the rhythms of the church calendar into your daily life. Or how about the practice of a Sabbath? Do you rest one day in seven? I could write an entire blog post on the Sabbath 🙂 But the practice of resting from my work, ceasing from my labor, reminds me that the universe does not revolve around me. I can re-center myself on God and re-orient my loves.
What can you do this week to move from the ordinariness of your life to rest in the sacred? It’s not necessarily about doing different things. It is doing things differently. If you are what you love, what are you?