I have an aversion to religious rituals in my life. This aversion is so strong I even call it ritualism. Anytime I think something might become a ritual I avoid it at all cost. I struggle with a consistent morning devotional because I am afraid I might just start going through the motions. I am afraid of losing the spiritual connection to the action so often times I avoid beginning it in the first place. I think to myself instead: Michael you have the Holy Spirit, you can pray and fellowship with God anytime. This is true I can pray and fellowship with God anytime I like, but do I?
Before I continue I want to let you know that I plan on using a few analogies and to remind you that analogies eventually break down. Some analogies are better than others and some hold up longer than others but that is their nature. An analogy can only go so far because they only have partial similarities and so it is with the ones I will use.
My aversion to rituals is, by and large, only affected by spiritual things. I brush my teeth every morning, I go to the gym most mornings, I wash my beard two times a week, and so on. Now you might be thinking that these things are not rituals but routines and you would be right they are routines. A routine as defined by Google – a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. Every morning I have the same routine: I wake up, get my robe, drink my coffee, read my emails, check the verse of the day, check Facebook, re-read the verse of the day because I forgot already, and so on. Same thing every morning. There are slight variations depending on the day but you get the picture. If I was the star of a TV show my morning routine could be the opening credits because it does not change.
Another routine I have is I go to the gym four days a week. I do different exercises each day but there is still a routine in there. I have thoughts about not going to the gym because I don’t feel like it, especially on Fridays, but I know it is good for me so I go. I am usually glad I did. So why if I can see the value of routines in my daily physical life am I so hesitant to put spiritual routines in place? Why do I call routines rituals in my my spiritual life? The answer is…I have no idea.
That is the point I hit about three weeks ago. I was dumbfounded at why one was seen as good and the other as bad. Yes setting aside specific prayer times could become dull and robotic but the same could happen at the gym. True my reading could turn into a “must” instead of a “want” but that can happen in any area. The reason it doesn’t is because of self-control and desire. I desire to get stronger or to learn an instrument. The desire trumps the problem of dullness. Then at times when the desire is not as strong self-control takes over and keeps me on track. Things do not become ritualistic because you choose to not allow that to happen. So I made a choice.
Three weeks ago I set three timers on my phone that simply say prayer time. When these timers go off I stop what I am doing (if I can) and take a couple of minutes to read something and pray. I am happy to say that most days I hit all three times. There are days when due to my schedule I simply cannot do it and that is OK. I still do my bigger readings and bigger prayer times but these three times are about stopping to refocus my attention on Christ. It is not about doing a Bible study or getting a breakthrough in an area of my life. It is simply about stopping to spend a few minutes with Jesus.
I was so afraid of putting God in a box that I did not realize something very important. While God does not belong in a box but I might. We are always told to think outside of the box, to be free with our worship, to live in the moment, and to listen to the Spirit. That is great and I try to be like that but what about self-control. What if you find yourself wanting to be like that but not having the time every day to do that. Am I always spontaneous with my wife? What about with my kids? No, because there are times when you need to make time for them. Times when you are busy. You want to spend time with your loved ones but your schedule does not allow for you to do something in the moment. In those times you have to be intentional about it. Our walk with Jesus is similar, we need to be intentional about it. Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a box so that we can do the thing we want to do.
So I have put myself in a box and I have to say it is more comfortable in here than I thought.
Just a thought,