Liturgy is a dusty old word. And it's time we drew the curtains open & threw some light on it.
Think of the word for a sec. If you are anything like me, something in you stiffens up. Much like the sound of a gavel, it feels like something outside is trying to impose an order inside of you.
Doesn't exactly make you hum with excitement, does it?
But let me offer 3 reasons why you should adapt liturgy into your life:
1: It's already there.
Liturgy, as I define it, is any love-shaping practice in your life. Traditional Christian liturgy provides an external order, whether to a church service or daily devotion, in hopes of forming something internal, i.e. a balanced life with Jesus. But beyond these narrow parameters, don't liturgies fill our life much more than we let on?
Never missing an episode of the Voice on Monday and Tuesday nights is an external order that slowly forms something inside you.
Having dinner every other week with good friends is an external rhythm that slowly forms something inside you.
Leaving friends & family to wait for Black Friday deals every year is an external tradition that gradually forms something inside you.
Choosing to make eye contact in every conversation is an external order that slowly forms something inside you.
I think you get the point: we are not primarily thinkers, nor are we primarily feelers. First and foremost, we are lovers. We want to attach ourselves to something ultimate, to live in devotion to something, to obsess ourselves over the good of something or someone. The question is not whether we have these love-shaping practices, but which practices we have already adapted and if they form the kind of love for which we are so hungry.
2: They form good love.
The beauty of liturgies done on purpose lies in their ability to form something inside you that is currently foreign, the kind of love which is actually good for you.
Not all loves are good for you, and that's why thinking through your liturgies matter. If I took a day to do only what I wanted to do, I probably wouldn't write, read, pray, or say anything nice to anybody. Don't get it twisted: I am still growing a love. I am always, always, always growing love. But it's a sickly love, a love so diseased by selfish concerns that it can't address the infinity across the table. It's a distracted love, a love so well-versed in its own tune that a duet never comes to mind.
Let me put skin on this.
Recently, I find it easy to poke holes in people. Like SportsCenter, my mind drums up Top 10 lists of all the things people didn't do right. With every thought, my mind grows bad love, a wounded love that insists on seeing through everything until nothing good is left.
Examples of liturgy that form a better love: say 3 affirming things to my wife every single day. Write 1,000 gifts in your life every season. Find 1 beautiful thing about each person you interact with.
All these liturgies take time-- is there anything more counter-cultural than committing to something that refuses to give you immediate results?-- but these practices give you the freedom to grow a life that hums with good love.
3: Vegetables begin to taste like candy.
Practicing liturgies feels like eating vegetables. Both feel like work, and neither offer as much satisfaction as their junk-food alternatives.
I want to surf the Internet. I want to let my mind drift and think about all the crap I have to figure out instead of engaging a humdrum conversation about our days.
I don't want to find beautiful things in people I've already cast in "them" roles. I don't want to wake up at 6 am to string words together & make my imagination run another marathon.
But here's the real beauty in liturgy: eventually, you want the things that are actually good for you.
When we started saying 3 affirming things to each other every day, for example, our words felt choppy and forced. The praise that once effortlessly streamed out like a bubbling brook had frozen up, and it seemed like only an undercurrent of sarcasm & sass was left.
But we stuck with it. We tuned our minds to find the beauty in each other. We said the 3 things every day regardless of whether it felt natural. And gradually, the brook melted. Nothing is finished, but some days our marriage feels like a endless song of praise to each other.
In a fairytale twist, the candies become the vegetables, the vegetables become the candies.
Ever so slowly, finding beauty in people fits hand-in-glove. But it will take the wisdom to adapt liturgies that genuinely grow a life of love and the stubbornness to stick with them when they feel pointless, even fruitless.
But don't be mistaken: even at a plodding & liturgical pace, cynical souls do come around the bend into passionate lovers of God and people and this one wild & precious life.
photo: gingerbread housez for daaaaayz #youthmin