Routine/Heuristic Bias

I was meditating the other day on the concept of the spiritual “seasons” we go through as Christians—some may call them “phases.” I’m sure we’ve all noticed it. Some days/weeks/months we feel so incredibly intimate with our God, while other times feel like we could not possibly land further from Him.

We have seasons of absolute certainty—walking in the will of God, confident in His promise, determined for His purposes—while often time house seasons of absolute chaos—unsure of His voice (let alone any other voice of reason), hesitant to act out His will for the sake of our own well-being, and allowing our personal comforts and safeties to dictate our own convictions and responses.

I wonder if, perhaps, God uses these phases to upset our routine.

Mark Batterson writes in Wild Goose Chase “once a routine becomes a routine, break the routine.” You see, he’s saying once we begin a discipline in such a way that it becomes a habitual, ritualistic task, we need to mix things up so we do not loosely enter in to doing such things.

To give a tangible example of this, consider you wish to read your Bible more. You pray, you begin slotting out more time to spend with the Lord, and you dedicate your heart, mind, and attention to Him in order to focus on such things. Let’s say you finally start getting it down and it becomes second nature to you—therein lies the problem. We go in with the intention of glorifying God with our focus, with our time, with our discipline, but when a desire for devotion becomes a routine—a mundane task we end up doing—we’re losing the significance of it all. The necessity to break up the routine will call us back into a focus upon why we’re doing the things we’re doing, and also allow us to uniquely pursue God through our actions.

Whether it’s mixing up how we do it, or perhaps where, our focus falls back upon our intent behind the actions, and becoming more intentional about it, rather than simply doing the actions because we’ve become accustomed to them. In psychology and philosophy there’s something called a Heuristic Bias; it means that we begin doing things without thinking of them. As Mark Batterson puts it, “we learn how and forget Why.”

This has MASSIVE implications not only in the way we live our lives and maintain our devotion to God, but also in the perspective in which we look about things. We start with a directed focus, but as we come to grips with how to accomplish that, the focus often shifts from glorifying God (the WHY), to doing the task for the sake of it becoming more easily do-able (the HOW). I may be off on this, but I feel that the reason God may be allowing us to experience phases of Him (intimacy, “distance”, etc.) is because if we were to have a constant, daily association with God and His disciplines (prayer, scripture study, dependence, conviction), that we would—in our humanness—form routines of accomplishing these tasks and thus diminish the act of meditating on the goodness and the joy in enduring these tasks in the first place.

Like I said, maybe I’m wrong—and I’m not saying all of this is absolute or all-sustaining in explanation, but I do feel that in some sense, the ebbs and flows of our walk with Christ help us walk in a more appreciative dependence of Him. We taste and see His beauty, His majesty, while all the while being able to contrast that with the separation in which the World so often associates. Not only does this give us a larger appreciation for the time we are walking with Him—thus desiring to press into Him more—but it also provides for us a means of measurement in cultivating a desire to show that promise and joy to the world—who is so void of understanding.

“We do things without thinking about them. And if we aren’t careful, we (begin to) pray without thinking, take communion without thinking, and worship without thinking.” (Wild Goose Chase, p.59). Sound familiar?

Now that we see the importance of these things, I pray that we proceed in boldness. That with this understanding in mind, we may hold a new perspective on these “phases” we go through—that we may be equipped with eyes to see His majesty in all things (including the difficult seasons in our lives)—and to know that we are being equipped to bring His Truth to the world. May we be led by fascination and motivation in the Word of God and living it out daily in the world for all to see.

Amen.

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