Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Furrowed my brow. Turned my face to the right and then to the left to look at different angles. Something was off…
Oh! No mascara! I’d been putting on make-up and stopped to eat breakfast with my daughter when she came downstairs dressed and ready for school. I must have stopped before I got to the mascara – the last step in the morning put-on-make-up-routine. I’m in the habit of putting my make-up on in the same order, and I guess since I stopped before I got done, I was thrown off. I didn’t stick to the routine, and it completely messed me up. I didn’t realize I missed a step, but I knew something was wrong when I looked in the mirror.
That’s how routines work. You do certain steps in a prescribed order. You follow a procedure. There’s a formula. Many routines become internationalized to the point that you don’t think about them – you’re on autopilot when you do them. Can you think of some of your daily routines that are like this? The only time you think about the routine is if you mess up somehow, like I did when I forgot my mascara 😉 Then you have to focus on the steps, really think about the procedure, to figure out where you went wrong.
Routines and rituals and procedures and formulas get us through life, don’t they? They’re helpful. They’re effective. They work. They’re safe.
It isn’t bad to have them and to use them…but our relationship with God can’t be like that. If we’re doing rituals or trying to follow a formula to get to know God, we’re going about it the wrong way. Focusing on the wrong thing. A ritual is all about the ritual. The formula is all about the steps. We’re trying to make something happen in a certain way for a desired result. When it comes to our relationship with God, though, our focus has to be on God. Who He is and what He’s done. We shouldn’t try to follow a set protocol to get to know Him. He isn’t interested in something we memorized to say to Him. He’s interested in our hearts. He’s interested in having a relationship with us. Relationships are more important to God than rituals.
Again, I’m not saying rituals are wrong of themselves. We have plenty of them in the Christian church. Tradition has its place – to help us remember. But, if all we focus on is the formula, we’re missing the friendship. If we relay on ritual, we miss out on the relationship – on the genuine, life-changing encounters with our Lord.
And I don’t want to miss that. Do you?