I am a creature of habit, in all ways, including my faith life. I like routine and knowing what is ahead of me each day. I wake up every morning and say my list of prayers before the kids wake for school. I go to the Adoration Chapel once a week. I attend 9:00 AM Mass on Sunday with my family and Tuesday evening Mass, Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Benediction with a wonderful group of Catholic women in my parish.
Tuesday evening Mass wasn’t always part of my faith routine, though. Until last year, I didn’t even know many of the women with whom I now share a weekly meal at the table of the Lord. Before I could meet those women, I had to shake up my routine and step way outside of my faith comfort zone.
Last year, I accepted the invitation from a friend to join her on a retreat being offered through our parish. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you. You may love retreats and make them as often as possible. But maybe some of you are like me, and don’t really consider ourselves to be retreat kind of girls. I went on a retreat my senior year of high school, which was, ahem, a while back. I didn’t necessarily have anything against retreats; I just wasn’t particularly interested in attending another one. I didn’t have a desire to spend that much time with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I didn’t embrace the idea of leaving my cell phone behind and submitting to someone else’s schedule.
That’s what makes what happened next kind of interesting. I called my friend within thirty minutes of receiving the invitation and told her I was in. Looking back now, I can’t really tell you what my thought process was in that thirty minutes. My husband encouraged me and told me that he would take care of everything at home that weekend, but other than that, I can’t really remember a decisive moment of choosing to participate. I just said “yes.”
To be honest, I had some “buyer’s remorse” in the weeks leading up to the retreat. Occasionally, I’d long for a good excuse that would allow me to wiggle out. None surfaced. The departure day arrived and threw me completely out of my faith comfort zone for four days and three nights. I was forced out of the safety of my routine — and I was exactly where God wanted me to be.
The Lord needed me out of that comfort zone where I carefully controlled my approach to Him. In God’s perfect timing, He waited out my initial discomfort to tell me that He wanted me to approach Him with reckless abandon. He wanted to have the flame of His love reignited within me, so it could spill out of me to be shared with others. Despite my propensity for routine, He didn’t want my faith to become stagnant or stale. Over the course of those days, I slowly awakened to the fact that God didn’t want to simply reside in me, but He wanted to be alive in me!
In a lovely setting, away from home, I was able to bask in the beauty that only God can create. I was able to deeply reflect on our amazing Catholic faith and traditions. I was able to focus all of my energy on my relationship with my Creator and His goodness. As a tremendous bonus, God gifted me a group of women from that experience who I continue walking with on this incredible journey. It’s likely I would never have met most of those women in my large parish had I not said yes to this experience. I am so incredibly grateful.
There is nothing wrong with preferring routine, and that may be how God perfectly wired you. Honestly, I still love my morning prayer time, but since the retreat, I also seek to be more connected with God throughout the day and I have added new faith experiences to my routine. Here’s the deal: God wants our faith to keep growing and expanding so we can continue to discover the unfathomable depths of His love for us. He needs us to open ourselves to experience Him in new ways, so we can gain access to different graces that He’s waiting to bestow on us. To experience God in a new way, we have to step away from our comfortable routine and seek Him in new places.
I challenge you to try something new! Maybe your parish offers a retreat, a prayer group or a bible study. Maybe there’s a ministry you can lend your gifts to in your parish or diocese. You may find that you love it or maybe it’s not your cup of tea but just try something that isn’t currently part of your faith routine. Then when the next opportunity arises, try something else. Just keep walking through those doors God will open in your life because you never know what surprises He has in store for you!
Copyright 2019 Michelle Jones Schroeder