Driving the exact same route to work every day. Using a preferred coffee mug. Going year after year to the same place for summer holidays. Putting on our shoes or clothes in a particular order. Scanning our emails first thing in the morning.

We all have preferred routines, activities, and schedules that we are drawn to repeat in a consistent fashion.

Routines can provide us a sense of structure, stability, and accomplishment.

Routines have a rhythm and pattern that can provide an illusion of comfort, order, safety and reassurance.

This is because routines can be effective and life giving.

Such as me starting each day with a quiet devotional time. Or when I savor that first cup of freshly brewed coffee upon waking. Going for a daily walk on the wooded trails around our home. Or ensuring I have time time to work on my studies and writing by scheduling it in before lunch.

These type of routines have positive aspects such as keeping me rooted in God’s Word, helping me to discern His will, fortifying me spiritually, mentally and physically, helping me to acquire discipline, and helping me to accomplish desired tasks or goals within a day.

Examples of such routines and their benefits are demonstrated throughout Scriptures. Where Daniel was so dedicated to a routine of praying three times a day, that he was able to hold onto his faith, even when he was threatened with being killed (Daniel 6:10). Or when David chose to pray every morning so he could discern God’s will (Psalm 5:3; 143:8). And how when, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).

But while life-giving routines are of great value, they can become harmful when we become too intense or inflexible or obsessive around them, relying on the routines themselves as being essential for us to feel secure and fulfilled.

For when we begin to squeeze our routines too tightly their value begins to decrease. We start to loose a flexibility. And find ourselves dependent upon, or needing the routines to feel in control and achieve productivity, loosing touch with a fruitful way of doing life.

For as Aristotle once wrote, “Any strength gone too far runs amok.”

Whenever we start to perceive our routines as being absolutely essential for us to have a happy and productive day, things have begun to run amok. For now, we are being shifted away from a healthy use of rhythms, into a preoccupation on following the routines.

Whenever the routines themselves have become essential to our sense of wellbeing, we will be alerted by how we respond when they are disrupted or interrupted.

We will now become distressed when someone has the nerve to use our coffee mug. We are furious when we are forced to take a detour that prevents us from taking our regular drive to work. We become tense when we cannot review or scan our emails.

Whenever we experience such vexation at our routines being interrupted it is  warning that we have begun to turn to the routines themselves as a primary source of our comfort and control.

Routines cannot become the primary focus. Because ultimately, our comfort and security can only be found when we trust God and His plans for our lives.

So while routines help us build a healthy symmetry and pattern to our days, we must remember to hold them loosely. Being flexible and open to detours, allows us to embrace new experiences, see new places, learn alternative approaches, and consider life from different perspectives.

And when we can embrace the unexpected, rather than reject it, we grow in our capacity to trust in the beauty of God’s providence, plans and provision.



                        Photo Credits: John-Mark Kuznietsov, Amy Belazquez, Jamie Street, from Unsplash

Five Minute Friday Prompt: Routine