Daily Obedience and Routine and Ritual

Relationships require time to connect emotionally and with words. They require face-to-face time, and paying full -- complete -- attention to one another. I am good at that. Just ask my husband, boys, and friends.

Relationships also require the ability to do what we each have promised we'd do for each other . . . whether that be prayer, or a phone call, or a task, or just showing up when and where we agreed. All the ability in the world to make face-to-face or voice-to-voice time with you a priority and to give you my full attention when we're talking just won't make up for being someone you can't count on to follow through with what I've said I'd do.

As I have written earlier, my boys are at their best when I have fixed and faithful routines for them to follow, and when I am disciplined myself in keeping them on these routines. Then obedience is something they just "fall into", for the most part. But when I become lax about routines and my part in keeping them on those routines, then the whole day can become one long power struggle, and obedience is hard won on my side. My will is stronger than theirs -- so I do win. But life becomes painful and stressful for us all, and the relationship of love deteriorates.

God gives us adults the freedom of routine and ritual, too. Although we have great freedom in Christ, we also need ways of organizing that freedom so that life becomes easy rather than one long power-struggle with our Rabbi. Just as with my kids, some of those rituals and routines are very arbitrary, and could accomplish the same goals through many different ways of ordering the same events or even through completely different events. (For instance, my time of prayer and teaching them doesn't have to be at bedtime or structured as it is. We could have evening baths and morning worship time just as effectively. But we don't. We pray together and read together at bedtime, and bathe in the morning.)

I have been noticing that many adult Christians have big gaps in their spiritual practice because they do not have enough ritual or routine built into their practice of the spiritual disciplines. They need a time and way of practicing all of the classic twelve. They need to realize that spiritual formation is indeed as important as career or personal hygiene or family relationships. (Yes, it really is! We were created first to know God and enjoy Him, and everything else is a distant second in importance!)

Then I notice those Christians whose whole spiritual practice is routine and ritual, and they've lost the fruit of those rituals and routines, because they've lost sight of the One that those rituals and routines are all about. This is not unlike being a neurotic hostess who is more concerned about her beautifully decorated home, wonderful meal, and personal appearance than she is about her guests. The best hostess has all that in place as well as she can manage, and then makes everything all about her guests once they walk in the door . . . and, indeed, even has them as the center of her focus as she prepares the home and food and dresses herself.

May I have a life with my focus on loving God and loving all those He brings to me, and put in place all the routines and rituals that let me easily and effectively accomplish a life that's all about them!


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