Going through the motions? If you have ever found yourself on "auto-pilot", you probably have been "going through the motions". On auto-pilot, the deed is getting done, but it is without conscious effort and often without intention. It is rote. It is not the best way to go through life, but we often find ourselves involved in lots of things we just do because we have to - making no real effort to be intentional in the thing we are doing. There are two things missing when we do: interest and involvement.
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:16-17 MSG)
Our passage today deals with living both with interest and involvement - two things God requires of us if we are to really get the most from our relationship with him. In the theater, actors and actresses "go through the motions" night after night, play-acting the scenes they have rehearsed over and over again. It almost becomes "rote" - something they can do without thought. There is a routine to it, but the audience often doesn't see it because it is all new to the onlooker. To the one "performing", the motions are familiar and come across polished to the onlooker. The problem: they are "play-acting" and this is not real life!
God deals with us on the plane of real life! There is no room for "play-acting" when it comes to our relationship with him. Most of us try to "re-infuse" our lives with meaning, much like we fill up a gas tank in our car, wondering why we run out of gas just a short way down the road. The issue is we only focus on the "soulish" things in life which we can "fill up" our "tanks" and we miss out on the "spiritual" things in life which only God has the capability of providing the true "filling" for. At the end of the road, we often hear words like, "I am so burned out". Why? Burnout is a result of us living by our own efforts, filling our own tanks - going through the motions instead of living with intention and purpose.
Look at what David says, "Heart-shattered lives ready for love..." He is giving us insight into what it is to have an "empty tank". We feel like life is falling to pieces around us (and sometimes right inside of us). We cannot get a handle on the pieces. We have just been living life by rote, truly not committed or intent on the outcome. Then we hit a wall - leaving us shattered, in pieces, grasping for some semblance of meaning. Your wall could be the loss of a job or a loved one; the brokenness of relationship or the pain of disease. There are lots of ways we begin to "break down" in life. Our tank is empty and we need filling.
He points out something we shouldn't miss - true worship (not just the motions of worship) is learned when the pieces begin to fall apart. I don't know why it is, but we humans have a hard time really engaging in life with intent and purpose until something "urges" us into paying attention again! It may be we just get too consumed by life, so we just flip on the auto-pilot to get through. The first time we do this, it is a little uncomfortable, but the more we "fly" on auto-pilot, the easier it gets to just go that route. Before long, we don't even pay attention to the destination - we just set off and go with the flow.
As I shared a couple week's back, I regularly take seasons of time to just "re-center" and "re-energize" my life. I do it because I know my tendency to just go through the motions if I don't. I "do" all the right stuff, but the "purposeful enjoyment" of the actions is missing. I don't think we always need a catastrophic event in life to alert us to our drift into "auto-pilot". If we remain attentive to the need to "create a little space" in our lives, we can avoid many a devastating time when we just "run out of gas". My pastor calls this "breathing room" - I call it "balance". We need balance - to have time each week to create a fresh connection with the things which matter. In time, we need a little longer "breathing room", such as we accomplish with an occasional long weekend away. Then there are the longer vacations - those which really renew us on multiple planes. Regardless of the "span" of time, the creation of some "room" for balance in life is important in order to avoid the tendency to drift into the "routine" and "normal chaos" of a life too filled, but one which lacks intent or purpose.
Our human hearts work best when there is a little space maintained around them which doesn't become filled with stuff that doesn't belong there. There is a small "sack" of sorts in which this space is created for our human hearts. Fill it with anything which doesn't belong there and it presses upon the heart until it stops functioning. Our spiritual hearts only remain soft, pliable, and open to God's touch when they have a little space around them, too. Pride fills the spaces to capacity - humility leaves room for God to fill the space with what belongs. Just sayin!