“In church on Sunday we participate in a liturgy – a ritualized way of worship – that we repeat each week and by which we are transformed. Even those traditions that claim to be freeform or nonliturgical include practices and patterns in worship. Therefore, the question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’” (Liturgy of the Ordinary, 30-31)
I’m reading this new book (if you need a recommendation here it is), Liturgy of the Ordinary. It takes the daily activities of our lives (waking up, brushing our teeth, eating leftovers, checking email, etc.) and transforms them into spiritual practices with deep meaning. Overall, it is a reminder that every small part of our lives is important. Everything has meaning.
I’ve been particularly struck by the quote above, specifically the final lines: “The question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’”
I don’t think I had ever heard the word liturgy until graduate school. The idea of patterns and rituals (specifically in worship) was familiar in practice but not in vocabulary. I never had spent time thinking about the patterns of my life and the influence they had on me.
So in the past few years I have spent more time thinking not only about the liturgy of the churches I have attended, but the liturgy of my life. Just like church, we all have liturgies that make up our existence.
Tish Harrison Warren, the author of this book says, “Examining my daily liturgy as a liturgy – as something that both revealed and shaped what I love and worship – allowed me to realize that my daily practices were malforming me, making me less alive, less human, less able to give and receive love throughout my day.” (31)
We know this in theory. We are told from a young age that what we eat affects our lives, the music we listen to shapes our minds, the books we read may impact our decisions. But in practice, I still forget that all the little decisions I make, the daily liturgy, make up my life.
Our lives are made up of small days, momentary choices. It is somewhat of a frustrating equation; day + day + day (etc) = OUR WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE. We know it, but we don’t always pay attention to it. Even Tuesdays matter.
I remember two friends from college who worked at a bed and breakfast the year after we graduated. They spent a good portion of their days preparing rooms. I remember them telling us how they had created prayers for when they made the beds, and probably for other activities as well. This is what it looks like to live a beautiful liturgy.
Jesus modeled this for us, when He taught us how to pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
We have this mentality, this desire, for a grand life, but we tend to live our days in small and inconsequential ways. It is our single days that make up the whole of our lives. What if we viewed every moment, every decision, every conversation, as a formative part of who we are? What if we felt the weight of our every move? What if we lived awake to the consequence of our actions and words?
I’m trying to be practical here for you this year. Here are some steps, in the form of questions to ask yourself, to reevaluate and recreate your daily liturgy:
What am I doing?
Even if you need to write it down, pay attention to all the things you do each day. These things add up to create your life. It is almost like a food diary, keep track of the patterns you notice in your daily living. Pay attention to what brings you JOY, and what makes you feel a little less alive.
What do I love?
How we spend our time displays what we love. Where are you spending your time and energy? What do you love, or want to love, that you need to give more of your time to? This is the theology of living. What do you believe your life should be made up of? If you really love knowing what is happening in people’s lives, maybe checking social media often really is a good practice for you. But if the bright screen-glow and desire for red notifications is what it is about for you, we might want to consider some time away.
What can I change?
To make your life what you want it to be, and really, to become the person you are meant to be, changes have to be made. What are the silly time-wasters that are stealing your energy and focus? I’ve been considering investing in an alarm clock (yes, like old school actual alarm clock with no other function) so that I can leave my phone across the room. That way I won’t waste precious moments scrolling through pictures of people’s babies and dinners. Change requires both taking away and adding (simple math). We all have parts of our daily liturgies that need removed, either because they are unhealthy or just a waste of time. We also need to add in new practices. Consider what would fill your day with more JOY, hope, and overall fulfillment. Add that.
I asked some trusted friends recently what their morning routine/time with the Lord looks like in practice. What are the things you are doing that are working? I asked because I’m finding it hard. I always come back to the lack of time – and this book is reminding me that we all have the same amount of time in the day, and we all choose how we use it. I want my time to reflect what – and Who – I love, and my daily liturgy needs to be reexamined to make that possible. If giving up half an hour or an hour of my day to be with the Lord feels like some kind of sacrifice, what does that say about what I love? We can make all kinds of claims about what is important to us, but our daily liturgy is the truth detector. We need our practices to match up with the kind of lives we want to live.