Routine gets bad press in an age of instant oatmeal. Bummer. Routine can be passed off as boring and mundane, especially to young adults whose lives flow in constant flux, who wait to make a commitment while they hedge their bets. Spontaneity seems to fit their jigsaw puzzle life.
Or does it? Isn’t that all the more reason to discover afresh that “the sun also rises?” I’ve been telling them that their lifestyle cannot be sustained for the long haul. Marathons require different training rules than sprints.
Some are addicted to the spectacular. Can’t blame them. This generation invented flash mobs, google, and facebook. What’s next? Fasten the seat belts—it’s coming!
God gave a us rhythm when He created the light and separated it from the darkness, when He created the sun, moon and stars to govern day and night and determine seasons of springtime and harvest, when He gave land vegetation, “plants bearing seed according to their kinds” (Genesis 1:12).
God gave the Jews rhythm by establishing weekly, monthly, and yearly feasts. Rhythm builds remembrance and creates habits. Repetition puts truth into the mind. Jesus learned it as festivals were cycled around year after year: “When he was twelve years old, they went up the Feast, according to the custom” (Luke 2:42). Yearly trips created memory and imagination. Retelling the past was shaping the future. As an adult, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).
Daniel knew the rhythmic beat. When we read of his exciting life, we may not consider that those miracles were stretched out over a seventy-year span. Between the exclamation points of God’s activity was a quiet life of faithfulness marked by service and suffering in a foreign land away from country and family. He prayed three times a day, miracles or not. In between the dramas was daily discipline, sometimes with enemies spying. Rhythm made Daniel one of the most influential men ever to land on the planet.
Intentionality shapes destiny. We don’t arrive at our future by chance; it comes by Spirit-inspired decisions done over and over. An intentional appointment, according to my friend Mike Bradley, becomes a divine encounter. Routines become a way to hear from God. He met Zechariah on a routine priestly assignment, and an intentional moment produced a life-change (Luke 1:9). A spectacular Pentecost was preceded by regular prayer (Acts 1:14).
“Suddenly” makes no sense on the landscape of chaos. But when placed against the backdrop of regularity, it breaks through with an “a-ha!” I love the suddenlies of the Bible: “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven…” (Acts 2:2). Suddenlies are preceded by deliberate choices. Paul tells us that the life in Christ is an ongoing focus on the priorities of the Spirit (Romans 8). Nature gives us a jolt by highlighting the routine with refreshing change. After ten days of a hot sun, a downpour refreshes us.
Don’t let the ordinary put you to sleep. It was Jesus who instructed us to say, “Give is this day our daily bread.” Daily sacrifices reminded the children of Israel that they were to walk in ongoing repentance and faith. David said, “Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day” (Psalm 61:8). The writer of Hebrews instructed us to “encourage one another daily” (Heb 3:13), and the Bereans “searched the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). Jesus told would-be disciples to take up their cross daily (Luke 9:23), and Paul said, “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31). Sounds like a beat to me!
Rhythm builds a baseline, a standard, like the rising sun. Jesus told us to pay attention to the today of our lives, not to meddle with tomorrow. Daily disciplines invest in a preferable future. How many seniors wish they had put a few bucks aside when they were young? Little things matter; they grow over time. Routine sets the stage for appointments with heaven, encounters not written on the calendar but inscribed on God’s heart.