There's a little book that we're reading in our Youth Ministry class, entitled "You Are What You Love," by James Smith. I highly recommend this book to anyone; it's such a powerful, honest read.
In short, this books revolves around habits that are formed within our hearts. Smith explains how we are created as creatures of habit, so it would make sense that our worship, what we love, are all wound up within these habits. And so, as Christians, it is so vital to our spiritual walk to unwind these habits, these rituals, and truly look into our lives to see what it is that we do so unknowingly, so naturally. Are these healthy, life-giving habits? Or, do we unconsciously lead ourselves upon a pathway of destruction?
Because we truly are these habit-forming creatures, we live by this daily repetition. And so Smith argues, would it not make sense that our worshipful practices as well should be formed through repetition, through methodical practice, through liturgy? Boredom, it seems, is our worst enemy. We find lackluster in the "days of old," the hymns, the repetitive prayer, the daily communion. These things, however, are what become a part of our bones. What we immerse ourselves in, these daily, unfading tasks truly become one with us. If worship is not ingrained in our bones, in our souls, what is?
It is the "meat," of Smith's book, Chapters three and specifically four, that I truly was struck by something so important to me, and really, to our world.
If we are to lead people well, if we are to shepherd them, we must know their hearts so deeply. We must know their story. A quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says this, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
"The endless immensity of the sea," how beautiful is this? You see, this is the power of word, the power of imagery, of metaphor, of rhythm and rhyme. This is the power of dance, of song, of poetry. Our hearts are enraptured by story-tellings, because these tales tell the story of us, of humanity.
From observation, I feel as if the arts are being silenced, being pulled apart, plucked away into something only meant for those gifted in those specific areas. But this is not the way it should be. Is the Bible not poetry? Is the Bible not song, not story, not parable, not metaphor and simile? Just because these images, these vital words cannot be measured or "rationalized," by numbers and figures, does not diminish their power, or humanity's great need for them.
We were created with words, with powerful noise that spoke breath into us. And like that one particular lyric from All Sons and Daughters, "It's your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise...to You only."
While sciences and mathematics are incredibly powerful and necessary tools for us, writing, poetry, song, and dance are just as necessary and unique to us. The power in realizing our humanity within these structures is absolutely vital to our Christian walk. And so liturgy too, this art, is a spiritual discipline. When we realize the heart and the breath behind our work, we are able to strike that momentum that we need to change our worshipful structures, our habits.
It is so humbling to read one another's stories, to read how the world has been grown and molded and patterned into what it is today. Our struggles are penned down, painted out onto canvases. Through art, we leave our mark. We leave something worth listening to, worth understanding. Without it, we are broken down to merely facts and figures, hollow structures of what could be.
Branch out into the arts. Understand your deep connection within them. Bring it back into our schools, back into our homes, back into our lives. Allow yourself to re-tell your humanity, through and through. And above all, understand the habit-forming, worshipful practice it brings.