A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the ways in which routines can be very powerful tools to help our days run more smoothly, give us energy to focus on more important issues because we aren't trying to make decisions about the minutiae of our days on a daily basis, and, when constructed thoughtfully and prayerfully, provide us with opportunities for growth. Don't get me wrong, routines are very good things.
But sometimes, on some of these days, things just don't go according to routine. The train derails. Take for example last Wednesday at our house. All of my kids were awake by 6:15 (which almost never happens – they usually sleep until closer to 7 or so), there was already paper scattered all over the house before breakfast was even finished, and I had a complete and utter meltdown because my sweet husband had (very helpfully, I might add) had gone out and bought a huge bowl full of lettuce at the produce stand just outside our front gate since I needed to make a salad for his work party on Thursday evening. I didn't want to deal with that lettuce on Wednesday morning, I didn't need it until Thursday evening. But there it was, spilling out all over my counter, leaving no space to do anything else. It had to be dealt with. Rather than calmly dealing with the lettuce and moving on, I took out my angst by yelling at my children to clean up the mess they had made. Two of them fled the scene crying. All of this before 7:30 in the morning. Oy. It wasn't pretty.
I took some time to collect myself. I apologized to the children who I had needlessly brought to tears. We regrouped ourselves for our morning prayer and devotional time – a powerful reminder to all of us of how much we all – mama included – need Jesus every day, given the mistakes we had already made that morning. We made a few tweaks to our normal routine to make up for the lost time and moved on with our day. The lettuce got dealt with. It made a fine salad to take to my husband's work party. All's well that ends well.
I've been thinking a lot about this experience over the past few days. Routines when they go well really are powerful tools that can help us grow, no doubt about that. But what about days like this when everything goes awry? I'm starting to wonder if there isn't even more potential for growth in those moments when things don't go just the way we expect. I spent a lot of time during our recent vacation working through Sarah's fantastic new resource Teaching from Rest. In the very first section of the book, she says this:
"Rest begins with acceptance. Or, perhaps more accurately, with surrender…Whatever is getting in the way of your plan for the day – the toddler's tantrum, the messy bedroom, the sticky juice leaking all over the fridge and into the cracks of the drawers, the frustrated child, the irritable husband, the car that won't start, the vomiting dog, the pie spilled on the over door, [the lettuce all over your kitchen counter!]…whatever that intrusion into your grand plan for the day is, it's also an opportunity to enter in to rest. [CS Lewis wrote]: 'The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life – the life God is sending down one day by day; what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination.' We can't really rest in God's care until we trust that He will indeed care for us….I am not meant to take on this task of teaching and raising my children in my own strength, and neither are you. We are, however, meant to recognize every facet of our day as coming from the hand of God. It all passes through His fingers first, and He uses it to make sure that we lean hard on Him."
~Sarah MacKenzie, Teaching from Rest
I will admit that on those days when everything goes smoothly, I'm tempted to act on my own strength, or to be prideful over my routine-managing ability. It's in those moments when things don't go well that I am forced to turn to Him. In some cases it may be to beg for strength and wisdom to react to the 'interruptions' rightly. In other cases I fail, and need to repent. I need to ask my kids to forgive me. That's pretty humbling. But that's where growth happens. On Lettuce-Wednesday, I was reminded of my need to 'lean hard on Him' and not trust in my own strength and ability. I was able to have a conversation about spiritual things with my children – something that may not have happened if there hadn't been lettuce all over my counter that morning.
Routines are good. They are needful. Life goes better with them than trying to wing it every day. But at the same time, I recognize that I need to hold my routines loosely. I need to be open to the detours that come my way – as often they will – and look for how God is trying to speak to me through them. I need to approach each day with this attitude:
"O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen."
~attributed to both St Basil the Great and Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, which I found quoted here.
I first wrote this post about 2 weeks ago. In the weeks that have passed since that time I have had numerous opportunities to live this out. We've had many days when circumstances forced my well-laid plans to be set aside. (This is part of the reason why my blogging break has been extended so much longer than I originally anticipated it would!) It's been frustrating at times, but I am realizing the truth of these words. In her book Glimpses of Grace, Gloria Furman reminds us that "God in is His grace does not always rescue us from difficult or painful circumstances. God is about his business of redeeming us while we are in the midst of this broken world." I am learning that regardless of my circumstances on any given day – on that day when our routine runs smoothly as well as on that day that it does not – God is working on my heart, teaching me to lean harder on His strength in my weakness, and conforming me to the image of His Beloved Son.
When push comes to shove, that's what really matters anyway.