Monday, October 23

Spiritual Routine or Spiritual Rut?

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.--Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

I attended the same church with my family for 22 years. So many details about that church--the format of the worship service, the hymns selected, where certain families sat each week--became so familiar that even now I can see it all in my mind's eye. When my husband and I married, thereby becoming a family unto ourselves, we became members of a different church family. The transition was difficult for many reasons. For me the hardest part of coming together for corporate worship with a different body of believers was just that--it was different. My attitudes and expectations about church had been previously defined by 22 years spent in a single church-shaped box.

The thought of "church shopping" scared me. Admittedly, there were mornings when I preferred to hide under the covers instead of sit through an unfamiliar church service with hundreds of strangers, mumbling through praise choruses that I had never heard before. I knew I had to attend church; I was honor-bound to respect my husband by attending church with him, but something inside kept me from fully opening my heart to the experience. Before long I found myself in a spiritual rut. Going to church had ceased to be an edifying part of our spiritual routine as a married couple. For several months I set my jaw and went to church out of obligation and routine.

Routine isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, our God is a God of order and not chaos, and a well established routine can bring about order and peace. This is especially true for the two of us. Brad and I thrive on routine. We like to have our schedules coordinated and carried out in a timely manner. Just because we're routine doesn't mean we're rigid or boring or that we're in a rut. When we have a routine we feel much more settled and have the time to appreciate each other in ways we hadn't seen before.

I think the same can be said of using routine to develop our relationships with God. Even if we go to church out of habit, we are still giving ourselves an opportunity to spend time with God. When we're not in the habit of going to church it can be very difficult to be receptive to what God may be trying to communicate to us. Brad and I once again find ourselves trying to discover where it is that God would like us to worship with His people. I can already tell that this time I'm in a much more flexible frame of mind, and will not be so distracted by the unfamiliarities of what our new routine will initially entail. God has already taught me new and exciting things in the few weeks at the different church and I look forward to what He ministry opportunities there may be for us there.

God commands us to go to church so that we can spend time learning about him and learning about how he is working in the lives of other Christians. This is such a vital part of the Christian experience that we can't downplay its importance. Being unwilling to go to church because we are afraid of feeling like we're in a rut is no good reason to make a habit of staying home. We must not give up meeting together with others, even if it means the routine has to change a little bit or if something unfamiliar is put in our paths.

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