For a couple of years now, I’d been hoping to add one more blog series to my liturgical posts. I knew that I wanted it to be a series that combined both my own reflections and guest posts from some of the people I know and admire. I knew I wanted it to be on the subject of seeing our everyday work lives through the lens of a sacramental life (that is a life that honors both the invisible and the visible realities of our lives). Initially, I was picturing this being a Pentecost series, but for a variety of reasons - for this year at least - I decided to publish the series during Ordinary Time.
We follow the historic calendar of all the saints in order to become more deeply formed by the theology at the foundation of the traditions. What does it mean that half of our church calendar is categorized as ordinary? What does it tell us about the God who created and gives purpose to our lives?
If Advent to Pentecost takes us through the timeline of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, what do we meditate during the rest of the year? For one thing, I like to consider the parts of Christ’s life that Scriptures tell us almost nothing about. We know only a few sparse detail about Jesus in the time 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. 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.
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.
With the words of theology professor Wendy Wright, I wanted to consider the last couple months of Ordinary Time as 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?”
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.
I’ve been delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey. Each week we were invited to hear a story of each guest contributor’s work life through a day-in-the-life snapshot.
Thank you to my first guest, C. Christopher Smith, for the work you do which is both theologically rich and missionally compelling. Your work has influenced my own love for reading, writing, church, and meaningful conversations with friends and neighbors. It was an honor to introduce you to you my blog readers in this way.
Thank you, Amy Willers, for inspiring us with your commitment to integrate matters of both the heart and mind, as well as truth and grace in your work and relationships. Thank you also, through sharing your day of small tasks, for reminding us of Mother Theresa’s encouragement to do “little things with great love”.
Thank you, Shaun and Katie Fox, for not only being people who’ve wrestled well with your own calling but also invaluably supporting Brian and me in ours. A series about vocation would not be complete without sharing your story. Thank you for encouraging all of us in the challenge and joy of a wholehearted and collaborative journey of calling.
Thank you, Christie Purifoy, for your beautiful and graciously-told story of placemaking. Thanks from my home to yours for the encouragement to continue planting seeds and burying roots deep into whatever place we find ourselves.
Thank you, Kim Akel, for reminding us that we are called to steward the pain of our lives. Thank you for doing this passionately in your everyday work and for encouraging us to do the same.
Thank you, Jason Harrod, for walking out the vulnerability of making music and friends again and again - all while maintaining a commitment to ask honest questions and search for hidden, complicated beauty in your relationships with God, people, and place. Thanks for encouraging us to do the same through both the rewarding and challenging bits of our daily work.
Thank you, Walter Wittwer, for reminding us that caring for the least of these is not limited to those in social work. We’re all called (and I love how you reminded us that we’re also all on the spectrum of need).
Thank you, Krista Vossler, for reminding us of the kingdom paradox that only as we embrace our hiddenness in Christ do we have eyes to rightly see the unseen realities in our relationship with God, others, and our own selves.
Thank you, Nancy Nordenson, for encouraging us toward hope no matter where we find ourselves on the spectrum of doing the work we’ve always wanted to do and just doing the work we’ve found.
In between the lines of the thousands of posts I’ve logged into this blog since 2006 you can hear my own aching questions of vocation, calling, and work for 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.
As a part of the inaugural Work Stories series, I wrote wrote 3 stream-of-consciousness reflections on our journey:
I’d love to hear your stories, too. How have you been able to recognize the truth that some of your most extraordinary qualities are demonstrated in your ordinary work?
I hope you’ve been able to hear the stories, prayers, and songs from each week as a blessing and affirmation that your work matters.
With that in mind, let me conclude the series with some of the words Nancy Nordenson concludes Finding Livelihood: