Work Stories: announcing a new series of guest posts for Ordinary Time

Depending on who you ask, the church calendar has been in Ordinary Time since June. This quirk of the liturgical year is one I find slightly annoying - is it Ordinary Time immediately following Pentecost Sunday or do we mark the time as weeks after Pentecost? Some churches refer to these weeks as “weeks after Pentecost” beginning with the first Sunday after Pentecost also known as Trinity Sunday. Other churches refer to this time on the calendar as “weeks of Ordinary Time” (as in, “Today is Tuesday, the eleventh of September in the twenty-eighth week of Ordinary Time”). There are a few more variations, but I’ve found it more fruitful to worry less about what to call these weeks between Pentecost and Advent, and instead to focus and become more deeply formed in the theology of the church’s intentions. What does it mean that half of our calendar is left open to the ordinary? What does it tell us about the God who created and gives purpose to our lives?

One way I do this is to consider the parts of Christ’s life that Scriptures tell us almost nothing about. Between his newborn and toddler days which were spent in various locations of the earth, as his parents sought refuge from Herod to the beginning of his more formal ministry marked by his baptism in the Jordan River we know only a few sparse details. You could say this was the Ordinary Time of Christ’s life. The years we can patch together a few details of work and worship made up the vast majority of his days on earth.

Each liturgical cycle, we reenact that reality in the church’s calendar with days, weeks, and months of ordinary time. In the United States, this time of year (summer and autumn), the civic calendar is packed full with holidays and remembrances. The trinity of celebrations that bracket our summer (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) ensure we pay attention to the passing of a favorite season of barbeques, vacations, and recreation. From Memorial Day to Veterans Day, our calendars remind us to also set aside time to remember our place as citizens of our country with parades, memorials, and flag raising. (I happen to be writing this post on September 11, another day on our national calendar that will live in infamy.)

If the historic liturgical calendar teaches us to number our days to gain a heart of wisdom, there must be a lot of wisdom to be gained in our regular, working, resting, and worshipping lives. This is the model Christ seemed to have lived, and the church invites us to embrace the same pathway.

In the words of theology professor Wendy Wright, Ordinary Time is a season:

“…to become attentive to the call of discipleship both outer and inner. What are we called to do? … What are we called to be?”

For the remaining weeks of Ordinary Time, I’ve invited several friends to share a bit of their daily, ordinary work lives in a series of guest posts. I always feel like I can understand my own journey better when I spend time soaking up other people’s stories. Maybe that’s true for you too?

There may not be another area of our lives that we hold most in common without realizing it: we want to know what we are uniquely made to do in our lives and we spend our days trying to fill the gap between what we were made to do and what we do with our days in reality. This gap is no small thing; it often feels like an ache we can’t name and leaks out in the midst of our day jobs and our too-short weekends. We carry this sense of wanting something more with us into every relationship and every job interview. We know, in our innermost being, we were made for something good and most of us are not sure how much attention to pay to that feeling.

In the meantime we have to pay the bills, care for our families, mow the lawn, and figure out what to eat for lunch.

In between the lines of the thousands of posts I’ve logged into this blog you can hear these questions and this ache in Brian and me. If nothing else, the nearly twenty-eight years of our marriage has been trying to help each other figure out what we’re going to do when we grow up.

In some beautiful ways, God has helped us gain deep peace in this question and we feel like we have some answers to the question of our callings - as individuals and as a couple - that will probably stay with us for the rest of our lives. In addition to the lifelong callings of being husband and wife, mother and father, we now can add priest (Brian) and spiritual director and writer (me). Whatever else develops for us as we age (grandparenting? caregiving for family members? book writing?), we are grateful for some hard-won confidence that the recent vocational arrivals will stay with us into eternity. Hard-fought, hard-won and all the more rewarding for the sometimes excruciating insecurity on the journey.

I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

I’d love to hear your stories, too. At the conclusion of each post, I’ll add a prayer of blessing for all of us in our work and ask a question about your own vocational journey. I’d be honored for you to take a few minutes to share those answers with me in the comments.

Let’s help each other recognize the truth that often our most extraordinary qualities are demonstrated in our ordinary work. Sound good?

My various work selves:

Brian’s various work selves:

(You can read all of the Work Stories here.)