Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
The air was pure and undisturbed. It was early enough that most of the neighbors were still asleep and the dog and I were the only ones about to roam the neighborhood. Snow covered everything in sight and I hesitated before taking my first step; until my foot hit the snow, all was still and smooth.
When I typically walk our dog (Tennessee), in the mornings, we follow the same path. She has to hit the familiar spots and soak up all the smells, and only when we’ve gone everywhere on that path, is she ready to return home for food. The routine is repeated each day and I know that we both fall into the familiar rhythms each morning. And, if I ever forget something, Tennessee is quick to remind me with a quick bark or nudge.
Today, however, as soon as we hit the snow, everything changed. The familiar path was covered under inches of powder and Tennessee was so excited to walk that she began running in circles. I struggled to get her to the familiar spots while she was far more concerned with shoving her nose into the deep snow and turning to look at me as if saying, “This white stuff is awesome!”
When it became clear that the familiar and routined walk was not going to take place, I decided to give in to her newfound excitement and began running around with her in the snow. Between shoveling mounds of snow up into the air, and Tennessee running around in circles, we were both quickly out of breath and at least one of us was laughing. By the time we returned to the parsonage it no longer mattered whether she hit all the same spots like most mornings; for us we simply enjoyed God’s creation in the beautiful snow.
The familiar routines of life often bring us stability and comfort: we wake up and drink the same coffee and read from the same sections of the newspaper; we listen to the same radio station while making the same commute to work; we pray the same prayers over meals with our family. Routines are important because they help to habituate us into faithful and fruitful patterns (We say the Lord’s Prayer every week in church because it helps to shape our lives around the Lord to whom we pray). However, life is not always so neat and tidy.
Changing the typical routines and patterns of life help to prepare us for the days when unforeseen circumstances change our plans. Taking the dog on different paths helps her, and her walker, to experience God’s creation in new environments. Learning to pray in different ways helps to keep our faith alive in new and vibrant ways. We need not wait for a snow day to change our rhythms and patterns; new opportunities are available every single day.
As we all prepare to take our first steps into the season of Lent, let us pray for God to reveal new paths in our lives. Let us see this season as an opportunity to rediscover that which makes our discipleship so exciting: a loving God whose paths are always open for new discoveries.