If there was a way for you to know how much time you had left to live, would you choose to know? Or would you opt to take life as it comes, without the knowledge of your expiration date hanging over you? Over 15 years ago, new genetic tests provided Katharine Moser the opportunity to learn if she had the gene that inevitably leads to getting Huntington’s disease. This incurable and fatal genetic disease runs in Moser’s family and typically attacks by middle age. Against the advice of her family, she chose to be tested and found she did have the gene leading to Huntington’s disease.
This past week, Moser celebrated her 40th birthday. She enjoys good health, though the symptoms of Huntington’s will likely begin in the next ten years. What is it like to live with the knowledge of a genetically predetermined future? For Katharine Moser, there is no simple answer. Somedays, it feels like a heavy burden. Other days it energizes her with purpose. She has done Polar Bear ocean dips in winter, taken trips to Costa Rica and South Africa, met Pope Francis at the Vatican, and run the New York Marathon. “It definitely made me look at things differently. Both the realization that, ‘Oh, I have to plan for the future,’ but also, like, ‘If I can do this fun trip right now, I’m definitely going to.’”
In her book “The Liturgy of the Ordinary,” Tish Harrison Warren describes how life’s everyday moments and activities can form us (or not) into Christ’s people in the world. The genius of the book is to take the most “mundane” moments of one 24-hour day, from waking up to losing keys, from eating leftovers to checking email, and show us how God meets us and forms us there. This summer, we’re going to be exploring how God does this in a sermon series titled, “The Sacred Ordinary.”
Alfred Hitchcock said movies are “life with the dull bits cut out.” But God forms us through the “dull bits,” day by ordinary day, into the kind of people he wants us to be. Consider how the Word who became flesh spent about 30 years living in obscurity as God prepared him for his ministry. The greatest theological truths get lived out in the minutes and hours of our most ordinary days. Or as Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
Most of us do not have decades of foreknowledge concerning our likely cause of death. But living with the active understanding of our mortality can spur us to live with greater purpose and intentionality in the place where God most frequently meets us and shapes us, the sacred ordinary.