THE ORDINARY TIME OF GOD: a native perspective


“I want a rocking-chair faith,” my friend Ashley preached from her Anglican church pulpit.

I’ve heard her say things like this in the short time that I’ve known her, and every time I’m aware that where I sit today with God is exactly where I want to be, and at the same time, I want to journey further in. I want to end up in that rocking chair next to my Creator having a conversation about how we got here today and where we think we’re going. I want to laugh and cry and be silent and watch the sunset, drink hot tea and reminisce about where we came from.

There is something in the church tradition called “ordinary time,” and it’s that space in between the great church holidays in which things are pretty quiet. Life is still and, well, ordinary.

It’s those times when we find ourselves having lots of space to be and become. It’s a time to celebrate our humanity and our sacred identity with God in the everydayness of our living.

That’s where we find ourselves today.

The more I learn about my own Potawatomi culture, the more I see connections between church tradition and native tradition unfold. There are ceremonies and celebrations and “holidays” that are meant to be planned and worked out and executed. But then there are the daily rituals, the quiet moments, the hard work, the conversations, the living.

The thing about native culture is that we believe everything is infused with spirit, and so when we’re doing the dishes or taking a walk with our children, laying in the hammock or working to make ends meet, it is necessary that those things make an impact on our spirits as well as our minds and bodies and bank accounts.

You could think of it as similar to the mystic tradition of Christianity, to the work the desert fathers and the desert mothers lived in.

Today I live in the prayer that I prayed this morning as I burned sage and asked if who I am is really who I am supposed to be in the light of the gospel of Jesus. It is a heavy world, a heavy time. Maybe not heavier than other times before us, but when we live in ordinary spaces, when we engage in everyday acts of prayer, we sense it–our need to be a part of the work of shalom.

I found myself praying, “O God, I want to be wide open.”

Because ordinary time is this space in which we open our clenched fists when everyone else is gone, when we are alone and naked before the God who knows us most, who created us and knows our beginning, and who sustains us every day.

In those moments, those rocking chair moments, faith is a conversation. It is a listening and a paying attention.

And out of that comes the things of this life, like a day at the pool with our kids or a morning of hard work or a difficult conversation with a friend.

Out of our naked moments before God come the life we are to live, and that life is a living and breathing image of who God is. 

If our ordinary days matter as much as our celebrations or holidays, our life will be lived in constant connection to the gospel of Jesus.

And in my Potawatomi skin and in my white skin, I can know that Jesus holds me steady in the in-between. In ordinary time.

The gospel is not just for Christmas and Lent, for Easter and Epiphany.

It is not just for the Green Corn Ceremony or the Powwow ceremony. It’s here and now and tomorrow and the day after that. It was yesterday and the year before.

It was before anything we know existed, and it will be after everything is gone.

Somehow, that comforts me.

Somehow, that makes me want for those quiet moments with God.

It makes me want for truth and love and grace and peace, for harmony and a prayer with burning sage to cleanse me of what ails me, for the life of Jesus to call me further into who I am meant to be.

Perhaps ordinary time is not so ordinary after all, if it leads into fuller living.

Perhaps we’ve forgotten what it means to be fully alive.

Perhaps we long for it again.

Surely, surely, we will find it when the time comes, when ordinary time calls us out of our shadowed selves and into fresh living that goes against the grain of injustice and indifference.

But first, we have to know that it’s okay to be ordinary. 

“I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”
― Elie Wiesel




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