Scary, Scary Ordinary
It's more important than ever to see the spiritual significance in our ordinary, daily routines.
To be honest, quarantine isn’t much different than my usual routine. I split my days between caring for a toddler and working from home. I’m used to monotony — both the comfort and restlessness it alternately brings.
But even as an introvert, I miss the things we’ve lost. Hair appointments. Long days of errand-running. Dinner out on the weekends. Hosting friends. Visiting family. In an effort to help slow the spread of the pandemic turning our world upside down, I’ve willingly given up these things. And despite the fact that my day-to-day doesn’t look that different than it did a month ago, losing the ability to abandon the day-to-day, even for an evening, has altered my attitude more than I’d like to admit.
Stuck in the Dull Bits
At the beginning of March I finally got around to reading Tish Harrison Warren’s book, Liturgy of the Ordinary. I had no idea how applicable it would be. As my fairly boring existence went from lifestyle choice to government mandate, Warren’s challenge to recognize the “sacred practices in everyday life” took on new relevance.
“Alfred Hitchcock said movies are ‘life with the dull bits cut out,'” Warren writes, accurately noting that “we tend to want a Christian life with the dull bits cut out.” I underlined this as I read on:
I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows.
I don’t usually consider making the bed and doing dishes Christian activities. They’re just chores. Boring chores. And with everything so uncertain at the moment, they’re chores I accompany with podcasts, music, or a phone call. I want to plug my ears with noise during the monotonous tasks more than ever, because listening to the silence means opening my mind to fear, doubts, and unanswerable questions.
There’s nothing wrong with listening to something while doing mundane chores. But if my intent is to hurry past the mundane because it scares me (now more than ever), I could be missing out on critical spiritual growth.
“The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines,” according to Warren. In Chapter 2, she discusses how she came to recognize her daily habits as liturgy — “as something that both revealed and shaped what I love and worship.” Then she realized that her habits at the time “were malforming me, making me less alive, less human, less able to give and receive love throughout my day.”
Unfortunately I can say the same. I’ve allowed the panic outside to dictate certain habits in our home — and definitely the attitude with which I approach them. But right now, it’s more important than ever to approach ordinary life in a way that makes me more alive, more human, more able to give and receive love. In a way that acknowledges how our ordinary is “weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life God has for us.” I need to change the way I approach these long days, these days when nothing is certain yet everything is the same, over and over.
I need to pray before gobbling up shocking headlines. To feel the silence, and allow God to transform my heart in it. To rely on him to sustain me, instead of turning to distractions that never satisfy. To quote Warren, “I need to find joy and reject despair in the moment I’m in, in the midst of small pressures and needling anxieties.”
To truly view the small parts of life as sacred and significant is to have a measure of peace and comfort in these days of turmoil. It helps the monotony of life stuck at home — no matter how long it stretches on — not seem so daunting.