We celebrated Independence Day (or as my UK friends call it “Colonial Rebellion Day”) on a Wednesday this year and it felt kind of weird. Many US holidays fall on a Monday (Memorial Day and Labor Day) or Friday (Good Friday) or even on a Thursday (Thanksgiving). A few special days like Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Independence Day are celebrated on a specific date each year regardless of where that day falls in the week. Of these date specific occasions, however, only Christmas, New Year’s Day and Independence Day, are truly treated as National Holidays where everything stops and we all take the day off.
Taking a day off in the middle of a work week to remember the birth of our nation, have picnics, watch fireworks and celebrate with friends was more memorable than normal for me this year. Partly this was because we were able to enjoy the day with my brother and his family and partly because it was a break in our routine.
I think that this concept of a break in our routine is something that God intended and even built into the Jewish calendar in the form of a Sabbath each week, the sabbatical concept and the year of Jubilee. It is something that I take far too lightly and feels pretty counter cultural. I think that I am like a lot of people that really enjoy routine and develop habits even unknowingly. Trying to getting me to order something new at my favorite restaurant is a pretty futile effort (my wife will certainly attest to this).
Some habits like exercise and daily times of Bible reading and prayer can be very healthy while others like eating snack foods after 9PM and watching hours of television can be harmful. For many of us it takes something unusual for us to break our routines. Maybe it is that moment of truth when we step on the scale after avoiding it for several weeks and we discover that we have gained far more weight than we had realized. For others it is that moment when someone close to us discloses a hard truth about their frustration with a habit we did not even know we had (or have simply been ignoring) like leaving our clothes all over the bedroom rather than in the hamper where they belong. Sometimes it is a big event like losing a job or loved one that causes us to sit up and evaluate our daily behaviors.
As a person that likes things to be fairly predictable, God has had to do some pretty dramatic things in my life at times to get my attention and help me see that my routines in a particular area of my life were not healthy. In other instances, He woke me up to the reality that His plan for me might not be so predictable, but would ultimately be far more satisfying. Leaving the secular business world and becoming a missionary was a big step of faith and took me way outside my comfort zone in my late 20s. All the familiar patterns of climbing the corporate ladder and working towards the next promotion were totally disrupted. Joining CLC and working in a Christian bookstore, however, brought new norms and patterns into my life that replaced the old ones, but nonetheless became habit forming again. In recent years, God has placed me in a role where travel around the world is required and no two weeks seem to be the same.
As I watched the fireworks exploding over my head on Wednesday, it struck me that I need to embrace these moments of celebration and joy whenever they happen to arrive even if it is in the middle of the week. As I looked around at the crowd, I noticed so many kids looking into the night sky with wonder and awe. They did not care what day it was, it was just awesome to see things blow up, hear the booming sounds and watch the dazzling colors of the light show above them. This simple spirit of childlike acceptance of whatever God brings into my life has the potential to change routine events into the extraordinary as He sets the agenda for each new day.