Lest routine set my ways
Most of us, I would imagine, are creatures of habit. We have our usual morning routines. Or our typical bedtime sequence of events that tells our brains it’s time to sleep. Or we might drive the exact same route to and from work each day. While variety may be the spice of life, providing some degree of predictability and pattern to our days lends many of us a sense of comfort and security.
More often than not, I tend to find myself in this camp—embracing the routine nature of my days. That is, until last week when I spent five days in Omaha, Nebraska, with 110 other youth and adults from St. Paul. There was absolutely nothing routine about such an experience. Staying in a college dorm and embracing communal living. Devoting our days to serving in unfamiliar places, stepping outside our comfort zones, and pushing ourselves beyond exhaustion to discover what it means to love our neighbors. The only consistent pattern of the week was that each day began with some nervousness about what the coming hours would hold, and each day ended with full hearts and smiles on just about everyone’s face.
The entirety of our trip centered around this question: “Who is my neighbor?” And we spent those five days discovering that, more often than not, meeting and loving and serving our neighbors requires us to let go of our routines and expectations. It’s often outside of those daily patterns where incredible, eye-opening experiences can happen.
This was most evident when our group spent time at Omaha’s Tri-Faith Initiative, where we were able to participate in worship services with our Muslim and Jewish sisters & brothers. We somewhat nervously approached such an experience—far outside our usual patterns of worship or church experience—and a bit unsure of how we would be received. What we discovered was that stepping out of our own familiar practices and customs only led to broadened horizons and new understandings and greater appreciation for those who we might otherwise see as simply “other.”
So it seemed incredibly fitting that, as our large group took part in the Jewish Shabbat service on Friday evening, we added our collective voices to a prayer spoken each week in their worship:
“Lest routine set my ways” struck me as perhaps the most perfect words to be prayed that evening. We, an assembly of Jews and Christians, worshiping together in their beautiful Temple, and quickly discovering that stepping outside our routines, preconceived notions, and previous assumptions is exactly what can lead to new friendships, enlightening experiences, and better understanding.
Of course, such a prayer doesn’t need to be reserved for mission trips or large inter-faith encounters. Perhaps we could learn something (many things, actually) from our Jewish friends, and speak this prayer ourselves in a daily way. What might we do today to challenge our perceptions, create new relationships, or step out of our comfort zones? How might the thoughts & patterns of our very lives be different today than they were yesterday, lest routine set our ways.