There’s a story about a newlywed couple who cooked one of their first meals together as husband and wife. The young woman had chosen to make an old family recipe — pot roast — and she wanted it to be just perfect. When everything was ready, she pulled the pan out of the oven and cut both ends off the meat. Her husband, noticing this, asked, “Why did you cut the ends off? Does it make it taste better?” The young woman replied, “I don’t know. That’s the way my mother always did it.”
The next day, the new wife was visiting her mom and remembered her husband’s question from the night before. She asked her mom, “When you make pot roast, why do you cut the ends off? Does it make it taste better?” Her mother thought for a moment and then replied, “I don’t know. That’s the way my mother always did it. Why don’t you ask your grandma? It’s her recipe.”
“Grandma,” she asked during that call, “When you make pot roast, why do you cut the ends off? Does it make it taste better?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then her grandmother answered, “When your mother was a little girl, we only had a small oven, and the pot roast wouldn’t fit unless I cut the ends off.”
The moral of the story: Sometimes, we get in the habit of doing things a certain way because, well, it’s the way we’ve always done them! Whether it’s cutting the ends off the pot roast or carrying on some other pattern, routine, or family tradition, we’re creatures of habit — we thrive on familiarity. There’s comfort in predictability, because we can anticipate what comes next. Sometimes, though, sticking to the ol’ “tried and true” can hurt us. We might continue our substance abuse rather than seeking help. We may rack up financial debt instead of building our savings. Or the fitness plan we committed to on New Year’s Day is a distant memory as we settle back into work and school (and suddenly Netflix looks a lot more appealing than the treadmill!). Doing things the way we’ve always done them feels a lot easier than starting from scratch.
It’s the same way in our spiritual lives. When it comes to our relationship with God, it’s easy to find ourselves sticking to familiar habits and miss out on rediscovering Him each day with fresh eyes and a fresh heart. Whether it’s attending church on the weekends just to check it off our to-do list, or our prayer life only consisting of a quick “grace” we say at dinner, we can get caught up in the routine and forget what it means to worship. When did you last make Him not just A priority, but THE priority? When did you last let yourself feel awestruck by His grace? When did you last set aside time just to sit in His presence? If your answer is “today”, then wonderful, keep it up! But if not, what could you do differently to make that happen?
The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to take stock of life – to celebrate our growth in certain areas, and to acknowledge room for improvement in other areas. But the key to our spiritual life is that there’s always room for improvement! We can never “finish” growing in God. What’s your next step? Maybe it’s downloading a Bible reading plan on your phone, setting your alarm ten minutes earlier so you can have morning prayer time, joining a small group, or becoming part of a serve team at church. Let’s commit this year to relationship over ritual, and to trading in our busyness for His holiness.