Stuck in a Rut…

…or in praise of routine? It may just be a matter of perspective.

My wife and I recently returned from a brief vacation in Florida that concluded with a few days attending a conference. In the last Pastor’s Page post, I sang the praises of vacations, taking time away from the routine of everyday life to enjoy some rest, recreation, and refreshment. But life isn’t a vacation, right? To be sure, some wish it were, but they’d soon find out that year-round “vacation” leaves them antsy—depressed, even. No, vacations can be good and wholesome, but to be so they need to be temporary things.

Life is lived in the routines of everyday responsibilities and opportunities. Routines? Or Ruts? That may depend on how you look at it. Regardless of what your “everyday” entails, the nature of your work and other responsibilities, you may feel stuck in a rut if you’re going through the everyday routines without a sense of purpose, with little if any meaning to those routines, with no hope that they’ll bring you any fulfilment or satisfaction—without joy. I recently read someone comment on the typically lamented routine of Monday through Friday. Get up, get ready for work, go to work, come home from work, fix/grab dinner, crash in front of the TV until bedtime, go to bed, get up, get ready for work…. Drudgery. Monotony. Meaninglessness. Rut.

Surely one of the things missing is a clear sense of “why?” Going through the everyday rituals can easily devolve into humdrum ruts if we don’t remember why we’re doing them. For example, why do you go to work every day? Is it merely to make a few bucks? Something to occupy your time—an “occupation”? Or is it an opportunity for service to God and neighbor and family—a calling of “vocation”? Is it simply a way for you to somehow make a name for yourself…or to bring glory to God? One of the values of a vacation done well is the break in the “rut” reorients one’s perspective to see the virtue in routines.

You can also learn from Jesus. No doubt, there’s a good bit of difference between life in the 21st century and that of the 1st! Our routines are generally tied to calendar and clock—we do the same things at roughly the same times every day or on particular days of the week. Jesus didn’t wear a watch or carry a smartphone with his Google calendar notifying him of appointments or a task manager app reminding him of what’s on the agenda for the day. But he did follow certain routines, some tied loosely to the calendar. For example, He observed Sabbath days and the other special days in the Jewish year. But other routines were related more to circumstances. For example, Mark 10:1 records that “…he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.” Apparently, Jesus routine went something like this: go to some area…people would find out he was there and gather to him…he used the opportunity to teach.”

Another of his daily routines when he would visit Jerusalem was to spend the night at the Mount of Olives, according to Luke 22:39 — “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.” Earlier Luke noted that “…every day he was teaching in the temple [another routine!], but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him” (21:37-38). Yet another routine that Jesus followed regularly was time spent in personal, private prayer. Often, it’s mentioned that he was off alone early in the morning, sometimes even all night, praying.

No sense at all anywhere that Jesus was stuck in a rut. He was always on mission, aware of His purpose, knowing the “why” of what He was doing. His routines were filled with meaning and could be carried out with joy.

The morning after our arrival home from vacation, I was sitting in the family room with my notebook, Bible, pen, and (of course) a good cup of coffee. And it struck me anew just how good routines can be.