Anything but Ordinary

By Jan Woltmann

It is anything but “Ordinary Time” – these 23 weeks between Pentecost and Advent that my calendar titles “Season After Pentecost.”

We are in the ninth week on this August day and the plates in my world have cataclysmically shifted. A shocking diagnosis reveals that our beautiful, healthy, 21-year-old son has a tumour. An earthquake of words erupts in my mind as information unfolds: brainstem, inoperable, marble-size, non-aggressive. Shockwaves of emotion course through my body as panic, confusion, fear and despair threaten to overwhelm me. In a moment, our lives are overturned and we sit amidst the rubble. It is anything but ordinary.

But “ordinary” time, as it is often referred to in the Christian calendar, does not mean “mundane” or “commonplace.” Rather, the term is used to offset “extraordinary” time – the seasons in the story that mark the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. The purpose of extraordinary time, says Robert Webber, is “to celebrate the specific historic, supernatural acts of God in history that result in the salvation of creatures and creation.” Ordinary time, by contrast gives us a collective moment to catch our breath, or as Joan Chittister writes, “to pause awhile, take it all in, and contemplate the intersection between the life of Jesus and our own.”

I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS illumination of text from Exodus, chapter 3

That is why the liturgical color for this season is a deep green, symbolizing a deep maturing in the faith that we are called to now.

Such a shade paints my soul these days as I struggle to make sense of my story and to surrender it to the One who was and is and is to come. It is difficult and often painful work, this holy relinquishment. But I’m not alone in the task. When suffering threatens to suffocate hope, a fierce grace wraps its arms around me and gently pulls me forward. It is a mystery that knows no words but arrives daily. It is anything but ordinary.

The deep green of this season also symbolizes hope. And interestingly, hope lands at the edge of our pool shortly after our son’s diagnosis…in the form of a monarch butterfly.

A few days before his biopsy surgery, my son and his dad float hand in hand on pool chairs, contemplating the difficult moments ahead. They speak of the shelter of God’s wings and His protection in times of trouble. The rare appearance of the monarch captures their attention.

With a faint whistle, my husband beckons the butterfly saying, “Come here and join our conversation.” To their astonishment, the monarch takes flight and settles on their hands. Minutes pass and the creature just sits there, fixing its gaze on our son. All the while, its wings gracefully rise and fall to the rhythm of its divine choreographer. In that moment, hope brightens our broken hearts, transformation becomes a palpable promise, and a young man’s strength is renewed. It is anything but ordinary.