Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am set in my ways. While we are all creatures of habit to some extent, I am more routine-oriented than many. When I stop to think about all the things I do over and over each day — at the same time each day — I am a little shocked and confounded. I do not like to deviate from my routine, and even a minor disruption can leave me a little disoriented on some days and decidedly irritable on others.
Routines can be good, but sometimes they can curdle into ruts that prevent me from living fully the life that God desires for me. A rut includes anything from a bad habit to neglect. Speaking from my own experience, a routine becomes a rut when I can imagine no other possible way of doing something — no other way to start or end my day, no other way to respond to a specific situation, no other way to cope with some challenge or difficulty.
As I think about the ruts that I would like to find my way out of, my mind goes to the story of Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and two other disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee in John 21. Scripture says, “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing” (v. 3, NIV). Standing on the shore, Jesus asked them whether they’d caught anything. They said no. Jesus then told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and “when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (v. 6). I can only wonder what the disciples made of this experience and what they learned from it. I would like to think that the next time they found themselves in a similar predicament — doing the same thing over and over without getting any results — they thought back to that night on the Sea of Galilee and how one small change made a dramatic difference.
Breaking away from old habits and worn-out routines can be extremely difficult, scary, and anxiety-filled. It often involves letting go of something that we fear we cannot survive without. Yet at the end of the day if we remain in our ruts, we turn up empty-handed just like the disciples.
I have decided that this year when I find myself in a rut, I will imagine Jesus standing on the shore inviting me to cast my net on the other side of the boat. My promise to myself is that I will then accept Jesus’ invitation to try something different. Who knows what good might come from it?
What better time than the beginning of the year to start a new, life-giving routine or break away from a habit that is holding us back? What better time to let go of the old so that we can welcome all the new opportunities God wants to send our way? There’s no better time than right now to cast our nets on the other side of the boat.
Several meditations in this issue address letting go of what holds us back and welcoming the opportunities God wants to send our way. You may want to read again the meditations for January 4, 7, 9, 15, 23 and February 1, 13, 18, 23, 29 before responding to the reflection questions below.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What old habit or routine would you like to break away from in the coming year? What new one would you like to adopt?
2. Would you describe yourself as a routine-oriented person or not? In what ways can routines and habits be helpful? In what ways can they be unhelpful?
3. When in your life have you “cast your net on the other side”? What happened? What did this experience teach you?
"Thank you for the creative teams [of The Upper Room] who are working together to share the power of prayer around the world. You have collaborated with everyone working from our homes to share the gifts of hope, love, grace, and peace." (Written in response to The Upper Room COVID-19 response efforts). View Jaqui's video contribution to the initiative, helping us create space and time for God in these anxious times.