Like most people I’m a creature of habit. I don’t like that fact and I like to think that I flail against that tendency, but it’s there all the same. In a vocation with a great deal of flexibility both by choice and necessity, there are still certain routines I prefer to follow.
Thursdays I like to go to my favorite coffee house around 6:30am and spend three hours or so perusing various commentaries. Then I return to my office to distill their wisdom (and sometimes mine) into notes for my Thursday afternoon in-depth Bible Study. It takes a long time to read theological material, and it takes time to distill it and spit it out first in written form and then verbally. I keep my Thursday calendar clear in general because of this.
But it doesn’t always work out that way, despite my preference for routine. Sometimes, things get in the way. More accurately, sometimes people get in the way. And when that happens, what I try to promise myself is that I will always let them.
I’m not here for my routine. I’m here for people. I’m here to interact and laugh and love and share with people in a variety of contexts. Maybe it’s at the jail like Friday mornings. Maybe it’s with men in recovery from addictions like Thursday afternoons (my one exception to my open schedule on Thursdays!), or women in recovery on Friday afternoons. Maybe it’s with the sweet little old ladies at the retirement center next door on Friday afternoons. Maybe it’s with the guys at the bar on Tuesday nights or the college students on Sunday evening. And of course it’s my wife and children as well.
Routines can easily eclipse people. The knowledge that stuff needs to get done sometimes makes me want to set people aside so I can just do what I need to do. But I try to fight against that as much as possible. Which means sometimes Bible study won’t be ready on Thursday afternoons because I was needed by various people. I feel guilty for that but I don’t want to. Bible study can wait. At the end of the day I’m pretty sure that the Bible study won’t make the difference between heaven and hell for those assembled 22 or so faithful. While they enjoy the study and I enjoy doing it, we can’t forget that we are privileged to share the love of Jesus Christ with people. We know plenty as Christians, on average. Letting that knowledge impel us towards people is where it’s harder. It’s a lot safer to stuff my head in a book or a Bible study than to interact with people who may challenge my conceptions of myself and my God and those books.
But sometimes Bible Study is going to have to wait because somebody had a greater need. When that happens (as it did last week), I count on the forgiveness of my members – which they are very good at giving. And I need to practice forgiving myself, which I am not so good at doing. And I need to give thanks to God for putting people in my life in ways that challenge my routines and preferences and keep me alive to his Spirit at work.