The Ruts of Routine


I love working out in the first two weeks of January.

I love it because I am an extravert and the gym is packed for two straight weeks until the New Years’ resolutions begin to fade and the soreness and muscle fatigue begins to set in. I love working out alongside the determined bunch whose shadows never darkened the stoops of their gym’s front door the previous year, but O! Are they determined now!

And I really love when I see these people there the third week, the fourth week, the fourth month. And when they see changes in their bodies as a result of their commitment. Sadly, these are the rarer of the New-Year-Resolvers, but they brighten my day nonetheless. I love seeing people make positive changes to their health and life. But these changes can only occur over a significant period of time and with a significant amount of work.

I have had many new seasons of life. I have had a lot of beginnings.

Three colleges, two missions organizations, 31 jobs, 13 countries, and four states, and every time I can remember making some sort of resolution.

This time, I will read my Bible every day.

This time, I will tell more people about Jesus.

This time, I will quit that old sin habit.

This time…..

But the results were essentially the same and when routine set in, the progression of days wiped away the zeal of any promise I had made.

A few months ago, my father took me out to lunch and gave me a word that has graffitied itself onto the brick wall of my mind:

The ruts of routine become the grooves of grace.

It is not the loud and exciting moments that define our walk with the Lord, but the spaces in between. The times where there is nothing new and exciting to gush over. In 1 Kings 19, the Lord comes to Elijah not in the wind, fire, or earthquake, but in the silence that followed. Abram waited 20 years before the promise God had made him came to fruition. For Moses, it was 40 years. Even Jesus prepared for His ministry for 30 years.

It seems like God is a little more patient than we are.

It is tempting to want instant results. We want our bodies to look like the gods, but only want to put in a few weeks of weights. We want a faith that will raise the dead, but don’t take time to read, pray, and fast.

The quiet mornings alone in the Word, glazing over the words because nothing seems to relate to you. The nights spent in prayer seemingly speaking to an empty room. These are the ruts. The disciplines through which we experience the long-term grace of God.

Sure, a passionate worship concert may be more exciting, and yes, the star-studded conference will ignite your spiritual zeal, but what about the times in between? What about the silent routine of everyday life?

This New Year, commit to the quiet, oft-boring disciplines that are not glamorous or exciting rather than looking for the next spiritual adrenaline fix.

And please, don’t Instagram each time you drink coffee while doing so.


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”        -Matthew 6:6

12 comments on “The Ruts of Routine

  1. Thank you for this, Ethan. I needed it.

  2. Amen! Happy New Year! 🎉🎈🎊🎆

  3. It seems that every New Year the subject of willpower and working harder at “self-improvement” are everywhere. It was refreshing to read about being in a rut and committing to find grace in those quiet, closet moments with God, rather than being told I need to do more and try harder for Him.

  4. An ideal – and much needed – message to land in my newsfeed on this 1st day of the New Year. I need to focus more on the ruts …

  5. Just curious. Is your dad a pastor? I like ruminating on that thought: the ruts of routine become the grooves of grace.

  6. Beautifully written. It is in the mundane, monotonous routine of daily life we really set ourselves up for the course our lives will take. May we be faithful, consistent, and God-honoring in our actions.

  7. It is easy for me to see God’s grace and faithfulness in chaos but oh, how easily I lose track of Him in the mundane day to day. Thanks for letting God use your seemingly simple message to revive me.

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