I love holidays. Especially planning, researching and booking them but I also enjoy the actual holiday, the new place to explore, the time with the family and a break of routine. As much as I love the idea of holidays, I hate the idea of routine – it’s a life-long phobia. I can remember as a teenager dreading having to sing the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind which contains the words: “Let our ordered life confess the beauty of they peace,” because the last thing I ever wanted was an ordered life but I was quite keen on the beauty of peace.
Today was our first day back in routine as the three kids had their first full day at school. At 7.30 the household shook off sleep and my daughter appeared in the doorway to drag me off for our daily dose of Pilates. Over the last few weeks I have been feeling guiltier and guiltier as friends tell me about their 40 lengths before breakfast or map their 10 mile runs on Facebook (you know who you are). Our Pilates habit had taken a serious battering in the holidays while my calorie intake had been boosted by half-board hotels, nights out and meals with friends. Some of my wardrobe is currently not available for wearing. So the return to routine, with its accompanying discipline is in some ways very welcome.
The church my sons go to is the sort of church that has sermon series. The series this summer holiday has been on Spiritual Flabbiness. A key text has been from 1 Timothy 4 – the Message version – which goes like this: “Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.”
I think we Anglicans could learn from the timing of this Sermon Series and perhaps give up some of our Ordinary Time for a season of Spiritual Flabbiness. I know the root of holidays is holy-days but I actually find that in all the fun and excitement and freedom of being out of routine I can find myself spiritually piling on the pounds. I tend not to join my church for Morning Prayer, I very often go to bed without reading my daily Bible notes, I may well miss Church if I am away and I am more likely to read a trashy novel than some heavy theological tome. I probably don’t notice any difference at first but then I realise that I am (even) less patient than normal, I am less generous or gracious to my neighbour and my timing or responses to people are a little bit off.
As holidays are one of my favourite things in the world I would love to find a way of making them holy without losing the freedom and excitement of travel and adventure. If anyone has any answers or tips, recommended reading or practices that might help I would love to hear them. But please don’t tell me that only routines and order speak of ‘The beauty of thy peace.’