My parents brought us up to challenge contemporary wisdom and to think for ourselves. It was odd, that as very 'establishment' people, they managed to do this, but now I look back on my mother's life, I think I can see a very strong streak of protecting us from people who would make us conform to outside influences.
And by religious tradition, my mother's parents (who lived with us) were Welsh Nonconformists and fiercely proud of it - my grandma had been a Calvinist preacher in the Welsh valleys of the 1930s. They joined the Methodist church when they left Wales, and so we were Methodists too.
All of this nonconformism matches my childhood experiences - some of it is really positive and some of it is absolutely stupid! The positive stuff is a real emphasis on personal knowledge, understanding, and committment, of and to Jesus. The silly stuff is exemplified by my grandmother's refusal, all her life, to attend the supurb Methodist Convenant Service, because 'It Comes Out Of A Book'.
So this is what brings me to Routines and Rituals. My nonconformist nature (small 'n') means that I spent my entire life hating to be constrained by routines such as rotas for household tasks, and as a consequence I have lived in a messy house nearly all my life up to a few years ago. Our home is still messy by some people's standards, but not by ours, so that's what matters, I've finally twigged.
My Nonconformism (capital 'N') taught me that the noun 'ritual' had to be prefaced by the adjective 'empty' or 'meaningless', because a relationship with the Living God was new every day, individual to each believer, and could not be replaced with ('meaningless', 'empty') repeated habits of worship.
I imagine you've noticed that both of these are on the 'silly' side of nonconformism? Whilst true, they are only part of the truth, and paint the idea of 'rituals' and 'routines' in their most negative light. In fact, both household routines and spiritual/religious rituals are part of a happy discipline that keeps me going though good times and bad.
This last week, when I had a migrane and the boys were struggling under mountains of homework, I felt so happy to face a basically tidy house because I'd kept up to date with some daily household routines even when I didn't feel like it. Letting the work really pile up (obviously it did a bit...) would have made me feel far worse.And I hardly felt spiritually top-notch either, but because I have a routine/ritual of thanking God for five things each night in my Gratitude Journal, and because my Lent book has daily readings simply set-out, I kept on going with these things too. It wasn't either my Cleanest or my most Godly week, but both cleanliness and godliness kept on going thanks to the fact that I've overcome much of my fear of routines and rituals.And finally...