Ordinary Time

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I know I’ve already said it here, the thing about this season of unproductivity and feeling at a loss for words for most things, and it’s true—in the last year since The Family Bible Devotional came out, any time I’ve sat down to type a thing, anything not tied to some dollar-generating deadline, my fingers have hovered anxiously over the keyboard. What do you really have to say, Sarah?

But sometime in the last month, I remembered poetry and playfulness. I remembered how fun it is to make a thing sound beautiful, to let language dosey doe some, to spin a little ditty, to tell a simple story just because this small moment is a moment of human experience, and isn’t it just beautiful?

Also sometime in the last couple of months, I began another devotional compiled by Sarah Arthur—At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time, and the concept of “ordinary time” caught my curiosity. Again, being a member of a church that doesn’t follow a traditional liturgical calendar, I had never heard of ordinary time, the long season in the church calendar between Eastertide and Advent, during which the followers of Christ just go on living.

It occurred to me early on in this devotional that this is the exact season of my life. I am in ordinary time. There is no advent preparation for and celebration of new life; all my babies are born and school-aged. There is no Lent, no deep season of sacrifice and lament leaning heavy toward the grief of Good Friday and the resurrection of Eastertide. Our immediate family unit is in the long season of in-between: No one is being born. No one is starting school for the first time. No one is graduating. No one is getting married.

Ordinary time could be filled with the tediousness of survival. We eat, we drink, we sleep, we work, we play, we find ways to keep our children occupied. Ordinary time sometimes feels this way. In the gaping yawn of ordinary time, it’s easy to become anxious for the disruption. What if’s creep in. I find myself worrying over when the next Lenten season will be upon us, who will suffer, which loved one might we lose, and how bad will I sink in that grief?

When tragedy strikes others in ordinary time, it’s as if I’m watching an approaching thunderhead, flashing with heat. I find myself counting up the seconds between the light and the roar. Is it coming closer? Is it coming for me and my own?

The fear of the storm on the horizon knocks the wind out of whatever contentment and joy I might have otherwise had in this season of the ordinary, when my child begs for a bedtime snack, insists he kiss every section of my face before saying his final goodnight.

Ordinary time is the longest season in the liturgical calendar. It’s what makes up most of our days on this earth. There are only a handful of miraculous anniversaries each of us celebrates and remembers; in between are all of these minutes. I want to inhabit them more fully, abide with the holy ordinary.

That’s why I think I might try to write something daily, something unburdened with the weight of saying something, something solely for the sake of noticing. I’m weary of rebutting the world’s loud opinions. The burden of taking a stand on this issue or that does not feel mine to carry and yet I’ve felt some self-inflicted pressure to be loud, righteous, just, to join the noise.

Maybe that’s why writing has felt so stifled these last twelve (to eighteen) months. Maybe I’m asking too much of it. Do we really need yet another megaphone in a sea of megaphones? Maybe by seeking after the ordinary, I can find that still small voice I most long for when coming to this keyboard. Maybe I can be witness to the microscopic miraculous, and find solace in the monotonous.

There’s so much ordinary time ahead. I wonder what tomorrow will give.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “Ordinary Time

  1. Sarah, I treasure your posts and they always touch a spot in my heart. Sometimes they bring back a loved memory, sometimes they hit a nerve … the thunderstorm of hardship approaching my immediate family. Thank you for sharing your talent and definitely immerse yourself in the ordinary time. Although it is a lengthy chunk of years they fly by so fast. The empty nest seemed to happen overnight in my life and I am still trying to find a comfortable way to live in the quietness of my own house. It seems like yesterday your smile filled the halls of Kenston High School. Godspeed my friend.


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