Friday, July 27, 2018

Unnecessary Ruts

Yesterday, I wrote about the vital nature of the spiritual disciplines or practices, how persisting in them, even when they feel like ruts, carves grooves into our lives that the Lord then uses to rush to our side in times of need. (Among, of course, other good reasons to engage in the disciplines.) And I confessed that sometimes, these practices do feel like ruts; they can seem monotonous or boring.

But they don't have to. 

One of the greatest challenges that we have when it comes to the spiritual disciplines is our lack of imagination. We think that reading the Bible means sitting down and reading the Bible. We think that praying means folding our hands and bowing our heads or kneeling beside our bed at night. We think that having a Sabbath means doing the same nothing one day every week. We think that singing songs of praise means remembering whatever it was that we sang at church the last Sunday and doing our best with it. 

We have so mechanized and ritualized and made "proper" our worship that of course it's easy for it to feel very quickly like a rut, very quickly like a boring task, very quickly like an unexciting, unengaging, minimally-meaningful thing we do every day. But that's just not the case. 

You can read your Bible every day, and you absolutely should, but that doesn't mean you have to sit at your desk, open the heavy tome, and read a designated section of it start to finish. There are countless reading plans out there that you can tweak to your own heart. Maybe you read it cover-to-cover, but maybe you read it chronologically. Or maybe you take an entire year and read it by topic, focusing on just one thing you'd like to learn more about and you read verses on, say, grace for an entire year. Or maybe you find a good Scripture-based devotional and read just what it tells you to read each day. Some have been known to read just the Psalms, day after day after day. Some read just the Gospels, over and over and over again. It doesn't matter what you're reading or why you've chosen to read that; what matters is that you're reading God's Word every day, even if it's just one verse that you then meditate on for the next 23.9 hours. Maybe you read different translations, maybe even side by side. The possibilities are endless.

Praying to God doesn't mean that you fold your hands and bow your head or that you have some cute little rhyme about God's goodness and the food you're about to eat. Prayer is anything that we do to express to God the depths and the state of our heart; it's anything we do to celebrate and strengthen the loving relationship that we have with Him. Prayer is dance. It is service. It is worship. It is words. It is silence. It is groaning. It is kneeling and lying prostrate and walking around and jumping up and down. It's beside your bed and in the depths of the woods and in line at the supermarket and sitting in traffic. It's writing or drawing or making or doing or not doing or resting or working or whatever. If you only have one way to pray to God, of course it's going to get old pretty fast. But if you expand your definition of prayer to include what's natural and holy and life-giving for your unique soul, it doesn't have to be.

Even Sabbath or fasting, times when it seems like we're not doing anything at all, can be diverse and wonderful. For example, although my Sabbath has some hard and fast rules, it also has a lot of flexibility. Maybe on a Sabbath, I'm cooking a large meal for my family. Or maybe I'm going to watch a football game with friends. Or maybe I'm playing a few more Frisbees with my dog. Whatever I'm doing, I'm doing knowing that I'm choosing on my Sabbath to connect with God in a different way than I normally do, and it brings a new depth of meaning to what I'm doing. When fasting, we need not fast only from food. Maybe we fast from technology. Or from worry. Or from whatever it is that takes too much of our time away from God. Fasting from different things enables us to tap into different depths of our spirit and find God anew. 

Spiritual disciplines are vital and important, but they need not be drudgery. Our God is a God of wild imagination, and that means that we are just one crazy idea away from connecting with Him in an entirely new way. He's given us this ability when He created us in His image; He's given us a piece of His wild imagination, and we ought to be using it to draw us back to Him. It doesn't have to be monotonous. It doesn't have to be boring. It doesn't have to be tedious. In fact, it was never meant to be. 

God never wanted, and still doesn't want, your reluctant engagement; He wants your heart. So think outside of the box and let your heart beat, and you'll feel the life coursing through your practices every day. 

And then, yes, those ruts become grooves and something greater still courses through them - the Holy Spirit, on His way to your side. 

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