I realized that I’ve written about routines and rule of life before. It’s chapter in A Great Work: Conversations with Nehemiah for People Who Are Doing Great Work. For the next few days, I’ll be giving excerpts of that chapter.
Nehemiah smiled. “It’s time for us to talk about routine. Sometimes restriction sounds like a bad thing. And sometimes it is. But when we are thinking about a way of living, following God’s way, it’s possible that there are restrictions that make sense.”
I started thinking about the idea of routine: a set of thoughts and behaviors performed consistently. What if there were routines that were healthy and helpful?
Nehemiah interrupted my thoughts.
“Number your paper from 1 to 6.” he said.
Nehemiah smiled. “You see how that simple action puts you in a learning mode?”
“It puts me in a testing mode,” I said. “It reminds me of all the quizzes in school that I wasn’t ready for.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Actions can remind us of the context where we used that action before. In this case, for you, the context of quizzes is an unpleasant reminder of your own unwise behavior. But what if you had actually studied when you were in school? In that case, the process of numbering your paper would have reminded you of the times when you got to show to yourself and your teacher that you had learned something, right?”
As much as I disliked the reminder of my poor study habits, I understood. Repeated actions shape us and can then remind us of the context. It can be a bad thing, like flashbacks, or it can be a very helpful thing, like being reminded of commitments.
“Back to the list. I know that sometime you are planning to talk about how I was shaped by reading the Law. This will be an illustration. I want to give you six kinds of routines that God put in place to remind us regularly about his work. They are all folded together in our promises to God in chapter 10 (of Nehemiah), but I want to lay them out more simply.