Every night, like clockwork, there lies an internal checklist. As I lay my head on the pillow, finally turning off the light, my mind wonders: Are the windows closed and locked? Did I lock the front and back door? And if I cannot remember, I have to get up.
It started when I lived alone in a new city. I walked in the door, and as I kicked off my shoes, my left hand would simultaneously lock the front door. If I went out or came in the back door, it immediately found itself lacked. I did not want to wonder if the doors were locked.
And now, years later, the muscle memory runs so deep, I no longer register the action. My ears no longer remember if I heard the deadbolt clunking in place. And so I wonder at night. I now have to consciously do the action to prevent unconsciously forgetting to do so.
My spiritual life can be the same way. I so often prayed over meals, the act became unconscious. Unconscious transitioned to mindless. And mindless spiritual activities prove ineffective nearly every time.
I found myself unconsciously singing along to the worship songs at church, disengaged from the words, the moment.
So I reverse the action. Unconscious becomes conscious again. Mindless becomes mindful. And rote actions become thoughtful actions.
The verses learned by memory are reviewed more carefully. That careful review uncovers wonder where once lived unconscious repetition.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13
“…all joy and peace…” Where I focused on the end, the abounding in hope, my soul catches a breath at a different word. “All.” Not some peace. Not barely enough joy to squeak by. “All joy.” And “all” peace.
No longer focused on what hope might look like, my heart leans on the amount of the things needed to endure. No longer solely focused on the promise, my body relaxes in the knowledge that flowing free is all heavenly joy and all heavenly peace. My heart need not manufacture it. It comes freely.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” –James 1:17
But wait, there is so much more!
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” –James 1:18
All joy and all peace poured forth from His own will. He wanted to do it. The Lord does not struggle with giving us good things. He pours forth out of His own desire. He feels no obligation. He rolls no eye. He pours forth “of His own will.”
So dust off the rote activities. Look anew at the things once taken for granted.
And see a whole new side to the God you serve.
Photo by Robert Linder