I hear it often said during this time of year, “I am ready for a routine again.” Coming off of the holidays and before the beginning of school or work, we might get anxious, or restless, about getting back into a routine. We yearn for steady schedules and reliable plans. We have enjoyed immensely the time away from our routines during the holidays, but the time comes when we are ready for them again.
In these first couple weeks of a “routine,” we can embrace what is most life-giving about steady schedules and reliable plans. A routine might sound mundane and uneventful, but the repetition of our days can reveal something more. There is freedom in a routine.
I can relate it to the routine of worship. When we gather in the sanctuary for worship, there is a particular routine—when we stand to sing, when we join our voices to pray, when we pause to listen. The pattern of worship does vary, but it also has a routine. Tom Long, who is a retired professor of preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, once compared the routine patterns of worship to the routine steps of a dance. A person learns the steps of a dance, and their pattern, so they do not have to think about what to do with their feet when they hear the music, while they are dancing. Instead, we can just listen to the music and really “dance.” There is freedom in a routine.
The routine of worship frees us, so we do not have to think about every step. We can simply worship. Our routine in each week can free us as well. We might allow it to free us, so we can listen for the presence of God around us, notice the needs of others that we can meet, or just say “thank you” for what is good in our lives.
The weekly routine of the church can also allow us to “dance.” We can fall into the weekly rhythms of worship or study on Sunday mornings and evenings. We can pause during the middle of the week to gather around a table with others for a meal and prayer on Thursday evenings. We can seek an opportunity to serve others in various ways, whether it is with the Conversational English Class each week or Loaves and Fishes at different times throughout the year. We can let the different routines of the church shape our lives, teaching us to “dance.”
We might even come and sit in the sanctuary during the week when it is quiet, finding stillness and seeking God in the middle of the week. We can let the freedom of our routine teach us to “dance”, as we learn the steps that to set us free.