Interjecting from my post yesterday about rituals and commercialism, I wanted to expand on the idea of rituals as they relate to faith.
I do not believe there is specific, magical power in communion or church attendance, but I do believe communion is a way to interact with God (just as sharing a meal is a way to interact with friends) and that there is power in the meditative aspect of the act. That is, there is power in the interaction, the power to be influence by the person (or Deity) with whom we are spending time. But this is very different than a belief in magic. I think baptism has symbolic power, and it’s a profession of faith, but unlike many denominations (I could be wrong) I don’t believe there is specific power in the act of being baptized to redeem a person. But these are terrific rituals. These rituals ground us to a greater reality, and guide us through life like points on a map.
That said, I am open to other kinds of rituals, rituals more personal and authentic and true to who we are and what God has us doing. I love the idea of creating rituals for us and our families.
Most of my friends would say that I am not a ritualistic person. But I don’t believe this is true. My rituals just look very different, and may even seem like common actions one takes throughout the day. But these rituals are also spiritual to me, and are part of my faith. I wanted to share them with you, hoping you might identify some rituals in your own life and call them what they are: rituals. But also I was hoping we could take some of these rituals and mold them to become faith builders, opportunities to grow closer with God. Here are some of my rituals:
- Most mornings I make my bed after I get up: I do this because it gives the day a feeling of organization as I start, but it is also a ritual. I make sure there is nothing on the floor in my room, and all the clothes are folded. While it may not seem silly, I’ve been able to turn this ritual into a way to honor God. Bill Hybles says that excellence honors God. Making my bed is a way for me, as an adult, to honor my father as the keeper and provider of my home. It’s not a right or wrong thing, just a ritual that I keep. And it’s a great way to start the day.
- I take my dog for a walk. If it’s sunny, we go for a long walk, about an hour and a half, and if not, a short walk through the paved areas at the park. What is important about this ritual is that it is sacrificial. I love my work, and I’m normally very eager to dive in. But instead, I offer the day to God by caring for an animal, by getting precisely nothing done for the first hour. Instead, I walk my dog and I pray and I genuinely enjoy nature. I have to get up pretty early to do this, but I normally get it done before 9AM. Gary Haugen at IJM has his staff come in and spend their first hour praying. Though they are dealing with incredibly important matters, Gary believes starting the day by giving an hour to God honors God and keeps everybody involved in God’s work. I think starting the day in sacrifice, not jumping into what we want, is a great ritual. I don’t do this every day, but I’d say I hit 4 our of 7 days in a typical week. (the picture above is from a hike with Lucy and some friends just yesterday!)
- I read the Bible. I read a chapter a day, and underline what strikes me. Each time I read the Bible, I start over with a clean copy because I am often proud of all my markings. I like the clean Bible, and a different translation, because the experience feels fresh. This latest read I’m forcing myself to read one chapter at a time. I always want to read more, but I don’t. I stop and pay attention to what was in that small section. I’m continually amazed at how rich the text is and how a group of writers could manage such literary efficiency.
- I make a to-do list. I don’t do this when I travel, but at my desk I make a to-do list. While this does not seem spiritual, it is my way of engaging the day God gave me, and of plowing the fields in accordance with the system he gave me to create food. This is definitely a business ritual, but I give it to God by understanding that my work is a partnership with God, a partnership with the gifts He gave me. My to-do list becomes, then, a spiritual ritual.
Again, these may not seem like very spiritual practices, but I do get from them a sense of security and connection with God. I like these better than voodoo practices that aren’t really connected to meaningful work or progress. There are other rituals I would like to add, but they are much more difficult for me. Rest is a difficult ritual, and I do not take a disciplined Sabbath. I feel like my daily hike is my rest, but truly it isn’t.
What rituals do you practice every day, and do these rituals have spiritual significance?