Just recently, I had the opportunity to get away. To get outside of my normal location, my normal responsibilities, my normal routine. I could ignore my phone, and never powered up my laptop. I was able to get up when I wanted, and go to bed when I was tired. I tweaked my hot sauce recipes, I ate foods I don’t normally do. And, in the mornings, I sat on a patio with a large cup of coffee watching nature until I felt like doing something else.
It was wonderful. It was refreshing. It recharged me, both physically and especially spiritually.
When I got home I had energy to go on a cleaning spree. Energy to do maintenance on both my bicycles. And when I went on my bike ride, I felt compelled to stop and enjoy the flowers on the bike path, rather than pushing myself to improve my health or lose some of the extra pounds that have sneakily added themselves to my frame over the years.
But as things often go, my routine, normal, every day was disrupted in a very different way come Monday morning. Something went wrong with our business partner’s technology, and we were suddenly inundated with calls. When normally we handle about three phone calls from our clients each day, we were suddenly handling almost forty calls, all while trying to do our normal work. It was the sort of break in routine that was the complete opposite of what I had just experienced on my little getaway. It was a far cry from relaxing, and I had the patience and presence of mind to deal with it more appropriately only because of my mini-getaway. And yet, despite the extra presence of mind, I felt those moments from the retreat already slipping away, and the jagged edges of reality starting to find their way into my normal again.
Last year, during the pandemic, I started a Morning Prayer service over Zoom with some of the people at my church. We’ve been meeting regularly online now for almost a year, and yet, just the other day, I noticed that the antiphons for the canticles, regardless of the season of the year, all end with “Come let us adore him” (BCP, pg 81).
What struck me is that during the routine morning prayer meetings, and our consistent routine of praying the office, I had never noticed that before. Perhaps it came to me that day because the Psalm appointed for the day was Psalm 136, which ends each verse with “For his mercy endures forever.” The repetition of the Psalm may have primed me to see the repetition of the antiphon endings in the Morning Prayer office.
But what I found interesting that day was that the repetition of Psalm 136 describes God’s movement toward us, and the repetition in the antiphons shows us our movement of response toward God. God’s mercy endures forever, and therefore, “Come let us adore him.”
What struck me even on that day was the likelihood that we might not come and adore God, because while God’s mercy and love never fail, our love for God can, and does.
And this is why we take retreats, and seek to get away, and look for ways to refresh and renew our mind, our body, and our spirit.
The stark contrast between my beautiful weekend and the reality of Monday morning made me aware of how easy it is to lose the peaceful nature of those moments away from routine, and I wondered how beautiful it would be to experience those moments I experienced on the retreat in the normal routine of my life. I wondered if it would be possible to live in the mindset of the retreat in every moment.
I had gotten away because my normal everyday had turned into routine, and I wanted a change.
I had also failed to see things about adoring God in the Morning Prayer office because my prayer life had become a bit routine.
And yet, I only saw those things in the Morning Prayer office because my prayer life had become routine.
And I only failed to see the beauty in my everyday because I was focused on the routine, my dislike of it, and my desire for a change, rather than on those moments of joy that pop up in each of our lives.
The issue is the object of my focus.
Is the object of my routine God, or is the object of my routine me?
Late last night, after looking at the stressful first two days of this week, and contemplating this contrast between the joys of a getaway and the stress of my day to day, I decided now would be a great time to read “The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence1, who’s simple prayer was this:
Lord of all pots and pans and things…
Make me a saint by getting meals
And wash up the plates!
And through which he managed to make even the most boring and mundane of tasks a song of Joy to his Creator.
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Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.