What does the phrase “going through the motions” mean? It is commonly used in Christian circles to mean a negative thing. We “go through the motions” when we do all of the things that we’re supposed to do without drive or ambition; when we read scripture, pray or attend church without an ounce of passion. I can see that when some people use this phrase, they mean to say that they are participating in spiritual disciplines without understanding the purpose of them. But I think that most people use this phrase to admit that they have been living as Christians dispassionately.
While displays of emotion and passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ can be natural reactions to its revelation, there might be danger in thinking that performing spiritual disciplines, i.e. “going through the motions”, without drive, ambition or passion is something we should be ashamed of. Accomplishing these disciplines despite how we feel is a show of great maturity and will benefit us greatly as we grow in Christ.
The Mundane Moments of Spirituality
All throughout the Bible, we read stories of God working greatly in peoples lives. There are numerous miracles that are performed in the Old and New Testaments. When we compare our lives with these amazing stories found in Scripture, it can be quite discouraging. How often do I make the sun stand still, heal lepers, or walk on water?
What we’re forgetting to remember is that between the climactic moments we read, there were mundane periods of time that served as preparation for the events we see displayed in the Bible. Moses leads the Israelites through the desert for 40 years. Jonah spent 40 days inside of a fish before he made his way to Ninevah. Jesus himself spent 40 days being tempted in the desert and before then we are not given much insight on the ongoings of his life from his childhood to adulthood. There are significant spans of years and even generations of moments that are not recorded in Scripture. Not every one of those moments spent by key biblical characters was filled with drive and passion. In some glimpses, we see that there were moments of frustration, fear, and reluctance. There were many other moments that were sure to be mundane as well.
When you feel like you have no desire to read the Bible or pray when you don’t feel like being surrounded by other believers, or making sacrifices by serving or giving, know that you are no less a Christian because you don’t feel like doing it. Most of the time you won’t. That’s why they’re called disciplines; there should be an expected amount of “going through the motions.” But as we go through the motions, the Holy Spirit is there to meet us and reveals to us the passion that Jesus has for us. Where we lack in our devotion he never fails to pour out how much he zealously loves us, even to the point of death. In the times when we do not hunger for the things of God, we must know that we still need them to grow in our faith and to live out our callings.
“But he answered, ‘It is written,‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4