Yesterday afternoon I did something different. I’d been feeling frustrated with my work, at a loss for what to write about on the blog, uninspired by my current freelance editing project. But instead of doing what I typically do when I’m stuck — ie. scroll through Facebook and browse the Internet — I stepped outside. I donned my gardening gloves and tackled one of the raised beds I can see from my desk – the one that will bloom a fireworks display of orange, yellow, fuschia and red in a few weeks, the tulips we planted several years ago in memory of my mother-in-law. Right now, though, the tulip leaves are choked with a jumble of dead grass, desiccated oak and chestnut leaves and weeds.
The chore took me only 20 minutes or so – I wasn’t out there all day (thought I would have liked to have been) — but when the bed was clean of debris, and I’d shucked my gloves, washed my hands and sat down at my desk again, I found not only that I had something to write about (this post you’re reading now), I also felt reinvigorated and refreshed in a way I never would have, had I stayed seated, mindlessly scrolling through my frustration.
This is a good lesson for me and my writing life, but I think it can also be applied to our spiritual lives, our work lives and our lives in general as well.
The lesson here is this: when you’re stuck, change your routine.
Lately I’ve found myself mired in a spiritual rut. My standard spiritual discipline is morning Bible reading, and it’s something I’ve done pretty regularly, ever since I found my way back to God and Christianity several years ago. Recently, though, Scripture hasn’t shimmered for me in the way it has in the past. More and more I’ve found my mind wandering, obsessing about the day’s to-do list or the emails stacking up in my in-box or the fact that I forgot to send in Rowan’s field trip permission slip. I was still going through the motions of my morning spiritual practice – the Bible was open on my lap, my eyes were reading the words — but I wasn’t benefitting from it in a real way.
So I tried something new. I purchased a used copy of Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, and I began to read the daily offices first thing in the morning with my coffee and last thing at night before I snap off the bedside lamp. I even occasionally manage to read the afternoon office, tucking the book into my purse and pulling it out while I wait in the mini-van for the school dismissal bell.
Changing up my spiritual practice in this one small way has helped. The Daily Office contains some Scripture – a couple of psalms, a reading from the Gospels — along with several prayers and recitations. I am enjoying the rhythm of it – the prayers that are repeated each day of the week, the one that opens the new day and the one that closes the day out in the evening. I find it soothing, and I appreciate the language, which differs a bit from what I’d grown accustomed to in my New Living and New International Bible translations. It’s breathed new life into a routine that had grown stagnant and dull, one that I’d stuck with out of habit and obligation.
I’m a rule-follower, which means I don’t typically have a problem with discipline. The downside to that, though, is that I resist relinquishing a particular discipline, even when it’s stopped working. I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve “failed.” And I especially feel that way because my primary spiritual discipline is Bible reading. I mean really, what kind of Christian burns out on the Bible?
But listen, if this is sounding familiar to you, too, give yourself some grace. Try something new; change up your routine. There are other ways to “read” the Bible. Experiment with The Divine Hours or The Book of Common Prayer. Download an app like Daily Bible, which will send you a verse on your phone every morning that you can either read or listen to. Listen to the Bible while you’re walking the dog. Or try something new altogether – contemplative prayer, silence, weeding. I promise, God will still love you, even if you’re not reading his Word every single day.
If you’re feeling stuck, whether in your spiritual life, your work life, or your life in general, step outside…literally and/or figuratively. I think you’ll be surprised by the postive impact even a small change in your routine can make.