I have a confession. Too often, I go to bed without brushing my teeth. Don’t worry. I’m a religious flosser, and I rarely descend from our second story bedroom in the mornings without a good, swift brushing. But the nighttime ritual often gets abandoned, not because I don’t believe in good oral health, but because I drop off to sleep watching Netflix or some on-demand television show, and the next thing I know, Steve’s waking me up so I can go to bed. I’m not good at endings.
Actually, I’m not all that good at beginnings, either. I hit the snooze too often, which forces me to forsake my morning quiet time which I really do value. Sure, I manage to brush my teeth and shower most days. But I don’t take the time I need to greet the day and prepare for my place in it. Instead, I rush around making toast and checking email, running just close enough to behind that I get freaked out when my youngest stepson comes down from his room in shorts when the high temperature for the day will be 41. He can’t find pants; I’m trying to get dinner in the crockpot. And now, we’re both a little more frazzled than we should be on a Monday morning.
I was thinking about my lack of beginning and ending habits as I was reading Tish Harrison Warren’s new book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. While you’d think a book with a title like that might make a person like me, with my lack of morning and nighttime routines, feel guilty and conflicted, the opposite actually was true. Instead, after reading it, I looked at the minutes and hours that make up my days, and I felt hope that the daily rituals I do fall back on might give me enough of a framework to build on.
See, the chapters of this book aren’t titled with words like meditation, confession, and fasting, among the spiritual disciplines I do aspire to in my everyday life. Instead, the chapters are named Making the Bed, Brushing Teeth, and Eating Leftovers, things I actually already do despite the otherwise lack of structure. I know how to live a totally ordinary life with the most mundane responsibilities, and according to Warren, that means I’m halfway there.
“We don’t wake up daily and form a way of being-in-the-world from scratch, and we don’t think our way through every action of our day. We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship,” Warren writes.
That’s why it’s not just important to try to implement new habits into our lives that reflect what we value, but also to go back to the habits we already embody and determine what they reveal about us. Warren does this by taking even the most frustrating of our habits, like losing our keys, or the most glorious part of the day, like calling a friend, and showing us how God is at work in those moments. If only we will listen, watch, and pay attention. This is how God forms and shape us.
“Sometimes the difference between drudgery and epiphany is just seeing things from the right angle, a frame that reframes everything, even the mundane,” writes James K.A. Smith in his endorsement of the book. “You don’t need to do more in a day, Warren shows. Instead, reframe the everyday as an extension of workshop, and folding the laundry, washing dishes, and even commuting become habitations of the Spirit.”
If you’ve ever longed to make your days count, to suck the life out of every minute, and to reflect on the hours and realize you were there the whole time, paying attention, you’ll want to read Liturgy of the Ordinary.
InterVarsity Press provided me with a review copy of Tish’s book so that I could share my honest thoughts about it, but they also provided me with an extra copy of the book so I could share one with one of you! Leave a comment on this post or share it via social media (be sure to tag me!) to enter this drawing. On December 15, I’ll select one name to send a free copy of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. Can’t wait for you to read it!