My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.
- Paul, Galatians 5:13
I learned about vortices and movements this week. Every time we move, we create little flows of circular air that follow behind us (I’m not talking about droplets or transmission, here. Not everything is about coronavirus!) Those flows of circular air are moving, creating slight currents that affect other things that we didn’t even touch. Think about running through the woods and having leaves swirl behind you in your wake. That’s a vortex you created.
Point being: Motion creates motion. Movement creates movement.
I’m guessing you’ve felt blah at some point lately. If not, congratulations, you’ve won at life. If you have though, you have been through times where even meaningful practices may have lost their sheen. Especially when it comes to the more intentional practices of actively loving God and loving others, you may just feel like you’re going through the motions. Or you’ve stopped going through the motions altogether because your heart wasn’t in it. I get that.
I have some Jesus-loving Catholic friends who sometimes joke about what they call “Catholic guilt," that deep-seated feeling that one is never doing enough. I've had friends go through hard seasons of being pressured to “go through the motions” of church stuff even though their heart wasn’t in. It can be really damaging, specifically when legalism takes root.
Most of us believe passionately that our faith is founded completely on the grace of God to rescue us. All we do is receive God’s love and respond in faith accordingly with Jesus. We’ve been set free! We don’t have to do anything! There is beautiful truth there.
Except of course, if that truth gives us freedom to stop moving.
Hear me out. I think there might actually be a case for "going through the motions” sometimes even when our hearts aren’t in it. There’s a case to be made that if we keep moving, more movement will be created in our wake, and our hearts will be sucked back into motion.
In our local church, we are doing movements that are intended to keep us healthy. We’re doing simple daily practices with Jesus that involve reflecting on a shared prayer or Scripture. And we get together weekly on zoom to pray and hear the scriptures, though sometimes it’s really annoying, as it was last week. Any of those practices could be tossed out because we just don't feel like going through the motions. And no, God does not love us one bit less if we chose not to do them because they’re exhausting or we’re not motivated. But many times, like a vortex, going through the motions is the only possible way to create movement.
Sometimes when we’re feeling blah, we have to do some motions, even if we don’t want to, so that we can get other things moving in our lives that help push us to the place that (deep down) we desire to be. It can be hard to find the strength to be disciples, and to be God’s Church. It’s easier to simply not do the things that are difficult at the moment. And there’s grace in those moments- God is quick to understand our struggles. And then other times, well, we need to not use our freedom as an excuse to do whatever we feel like (paraphrasing Paul).
Every time we choose to keep turning to Jesus, we create movement that changes the flow of air in our spirit. Every time we choose to continue to gather awkwardly for worship, we create a flow of movement that affects others around us because we know we are doing this together. Every time we continue to reach out and encourage other people, even if we don’t always feel like it, we create a vortex of spiritual energy that God uses to fill ourselves and others with hope and connection.
There are ways to live right now - in fear, annoyance, or isolation- that keep the focus squarely on ourselves. Together, let's be aware that sometimes, if we don’t go through the motions, we forget how to move.
The more I’ve been thinking, the more important I believe this season is in our lives. Life has no pause buttons. One minute is the exact same length today as it was in February. We are becoming something right now, that will deeply affect who we are in the future. Life hasn’t ground to a halt - only our normal plans have. This is a hard and unique and important season of discovery and work, even when we don’t always feel like it.
This isn’t intended to be a kick in the gut… it’s actually a message of good news:
It’s ok if you just feel like you’re going through the motions sometimes right now.
You’re given permission to feel that way. There is grace upon grace upon grace. But, like Paul had to say over and over again- don’t let that grace lead you to selfishness or stagnation. Don’t give up doing good. Don’t give up on pursuing real relationships. Don’t give up on practicing the presence of Jesus every single day. I promise you… even if you have to go through the motions for a bit… Jesus will move you somewhere new and somewhere good.
Jesus, give me motivation to move toward you and your kingdom today, even if it’s hard.