“Why are you slowing down?” My kids couldn’t understand why I had slowed the car down to a crawl and was now craning my neck to see the line of colorful trees in front of the church we pass everyday on the way to school. “What is it, Mommy?” I could hear the anxious tone in my son’s voice. “Look at those trees!” I gestured out the window. “Aren’t they beautiful?” My kids weren’t sure what to think. I’m sure they had lots of questions as they noticed me stopping more, looking around more, and paying greater attention to all the things outside of my car window on the drive to school—things I have often passed right by without truly seeing.
I’m learning, slowly, that my own spiritual formation takes place in all of these ordinary and seemingly mundane moments that make up my days. In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren Harris says “The new life into which we are baptized is lived out in days, hours, and minutes. God is forming us into a new people. And the place of that formation is in the small moments of today” (21). The small moments of my day look like a drive to drop my kids off at school, a line at Starbucks for a Peppermint Mocha, and evening prayers before bed. Are these the rituals of which my spiritual formation is taking place? Is this really the holy ground on which I walk? What I’m starting to understand is that the answer to this question is yes. All of the regular rhythms of my day are shaping and forming me into the person that God intended me to be. My ordinary days are in fact the places in which God has invited me to find Him. I need not wait until a Sunday morning worship service nor get a seminary degree to be spiritual formed by God. All I need to do is lean into my ordinary day with a little more intention. So what does this everyday formation look like? When I started searching for evidence of my own formation, I was surprised to find that it is, in fact, in a few of the most ordinary rhythms of my day that I find my heart most postured toward God.
The Cross on My Desk
A year ago, I purchased a small hand held cross. When it was brand new to me, I kept in my pocket. I didn’t need to see it with my eyes as much as I wanted to feel it with my hands. Each time my I brush my hand against the smooth wood, I am reminded of my relationship to God. I am reminded that I belong to God, and that He belongs to me. Lately, though, I’ve been placing the cross on my desk at work. Usually, I lay it directly on top of my planner so that I see it every time I glance down to check something off of my to-do list. It is a small yet tangible reminder of God in my every day life. On some days it even feels like I’ve turned my small office into sacred ground. No longer do I need to rely on a church building to feed my spiritually. My cross helps me to bring God along with me right into my regular work day.
Looking Out of the Window
I spend a lot of time each day in the car. I drive my kids to school each morning, and I pick them up each afternoon. Lately, as I’m driving, I’ve been completely captivated by the scenery all around me. It is the peak of Fall as I’m writing today, and the trees are in full and glorious color. This morning my husband and I stopped to look at the sunrise, and even earlier my sun and I observed a waning crescent moon before the night faded into day. The sky and our natural world is such a marvelous display of God’s love and design, and unfortunately, it is a wonder that I am prone to overlook. I’m developing a simple habit of looking out the window on my drive to school, in the morning, as I re-heat my coffee, and in the evening before bed. Observing the earth and sky, in their regular rhythms, is helping to form my mind and my heart to look for God in other ordinary places.
Morning and Evening Prayers
I didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition, but I have found that starting and ending my days in written prayer helps shape me into the person that God has called me to be. There is something about reading the prayers of those who have gone before me in the faith that gives my spirituality a sense of weightiness, almost as if I am standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before me. My own prayers are meaningful as well, but there is something almost magical about the written words I pray each day. I use The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle and I also read from the Daily Office each morning and evening. The morning prayers help me start the day postured toward God, and my evening prayers help me to refocus on my relationship to God after a busy and sometimes stressful day. These two points have become anchors in my day that I know that I can rely on as fixed points no matter what the day brings.
Thinking of the things that form me also, raises another question…what malforms me? If these simple practices and observations help shape me into a more Christ-centered person, what in my life cheapens or distracts from my spiritual formation? It is an interesting question worth considering, and perhaps exploring in another post. For now, though, I’m grateful for the small ways that I am already being formed. I am grateful that God uses my ordinary moments to form me. I don’t need to go to a retreat house, earn another degree, or spend every day in church in order for God to mold me and to shape me. I’m learning that He is perfectly capable of using what I have right in front of me on my most ordinary of days to form me into who He has called me to be.