Paring down is like waking up.

I’m rediscovering this in my studio.  Because this is a significant anniversary in my career, my wife decided it was time to refresh my workspace.  Which may have been her subtle way to get me to clean out.

It was past time to do it.  I hadn’t realized how many trivial and unnecessary things were cluttering up the room in which I spend most of my waking hours in.  At one point, I held on to them for a reason.  But those reasons escape me now.

In Isaiah 58, God continues to draw a contrast for his people.  On one hand is the kingdom he’s creating through his Suffering Servant.  On the other is the sad reality of how they live in the present.  Here, we have him confronting them about their religious practice of fasting:

 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.  (Isaiah 58:3-4)

How could they not notice how unspiritual their spiritual practice was?  Here’s a good guideline: if you end up punching each other, something's amiss.

But what about punching a clock?  Any practice which becomes an obligation, any perfunctory routine has the potential to blind us to its uselessness.  As Paul said, we could end up “holding to a form of godliness but denying its power.”  (2 Tim. 3:5)

I have been running that risk with my devotional times.  Too often, I’ve just been checking a box.  In this chapter, God is not asking, “Are you doing it?” but “What is it doing in you?”  How are you being transformed by your devotional practices.  And, ultimately, how is it transforming the world around you?

In my cleaning, I came across a book of Charles Spurgeon’s daily readings I forgotten I had.  So, I opened it to the day.  Here’s what he writes:

“When the Lord first pardoned my sin, I was so joyous that I could scarce refrain from dancing… So full was my soul of joy, that I wanted to tell every snowflake that was falling from heaven of the wondrous love of Jesus…”

Yes! This is the “first love” of grace in which must anchor every day.

And this is why we need each other.  We must have believers in our lives who challenge us, who remind us, who give us fresh eyes to see the routines we’re blind to. (Like my wife to my studio.)

Let’s not let distance – either geographical or historical – keep us from hearing those voices.

Father, help us to see what draws us away from you, even if it is something seemingly good that we do.  And give us trusted friends to remind us what really matters.

Reader: How do you keep your spiritual routines from becoming rote?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.