3 Ways You Can Live Intentionally Every Day
If you’ve ever gone to a church service where the liturgy is done well, you’ll know what I mean when I say there is uplift at the end. You leave looking up—perhaps physically, if the architecture embodies this theology of worship. Yet most importantly, your heart has been focused on God who, metaphorically speaking, is high. Your heart has been lifted up to him by the power of the Holy Spirit and with the creaturely aid of the liturgy. The liturgy is intentionally constructed to lift your gaze to God Most High.
Likewise, the rituals of daily life direct our gaze. Our hearts naturally wander away from God. We love so many other lesser things. Thus, we must train our hearts to gaze upon God. Our lives must be lived in such a way that we leave them one day also with uplift.
Our daily life moves us toward a telos, a final endpoint that is our purpose. By seeing ourselves within our Creator’s grand narrative, we are able to remember that our story is not the story. Rather, we are part of a much greater one. In this chiasm of redemption, (beginning in Eden, centering at the cross, and ending in Paradise), we see that our telos is in enjoying and glorifying God.
United already to God in Christ, this telos is brought into our daily lives. We find that we are more than our careers, our achievements, our social media images, and, yes, even our coffee habits. We find that we are lovers, and more importantly beloved by God, the Lover.
How do we incorporate this into our lives practically? How do we live as both lover and beloved on a daily basis? By being intentional with our daily rituals. Here are a few suggestions to get you started, but feel free to build upon any of these, adding personality and creativity.
1. In Your Home
A few months ago I got married. This is the event that led to my interest in ritual in the first place. I began to think about the structure of home life and ways to shape it with intention, so that God would be enjoyed and glorified in our new home. Practices like praying together, family devotions, being in God’s word, and singing together are a few options. Other helpful ideas include memorizing Scripture together; reading a book as a family that can be discussed throughout the week; and even table talk during shared meals wherein conversation is purposefully about one another’s spiritual lives.
If you live alone, invite friends into your home, start/join a book club, or read a book of the Bible with another person and discuss it together. Home is a sacred place where God should be remembered daily; he is our only constant companion. Remember that as individual believers, we should each spend time in the word and in prayer daily on our own.
If you spend extended amounts of time at home, one ritual that can be beneficial is playing worship music in the background during your day. Simple things like God-glorifying music can change the entire spirit or feel of a space, and promote God-focused thoughts, even while you are involved in mundane things like responding to emails or doing dishes.
2. In Your Relationships
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Make a habit of encouraging others; write an uplifting note; make time for a hurting friend; practice forgiveness; speak words of peace and truth; and pray for and with others.
I once knew a fellow congregant who prayed through the church directory each day, lifting up in prayer every single member. When I learned this, I was so touched to know that this person had literally prayed for me personally every day for years. Another helpful way to remember to pray for others is to make either a prayer list or a calendar in which you rotate through people for whom you’d like to pray.
Know your friends’ needs and how you can be there for them. As Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Don’t forget to let others be there for you, too. Part of making our relationship with God part of our other relationships is by preaching the gospel to one another. How can others do this if you won’t let them share in your own struggles? You need grace too, and the only way you can receive it relationally is by being open to others. You are not loving your neighbor by always being the “strong one.”
3. In Your Vocation
Be aware of the concept of “calling,” and seek the Lord in prayer for a sense of your calling if you do not have it yet (it takes time), or for direction if you do. Pursue habits that help you in this calling, and say no to what will hinder you. Remember, a vocation is not simply a job. It is the “good work” for which God has created you (Eph. 2:10). Your very identity is God’s workmanship. You are meant to do certain things, and in doing them God is glorified. Be aware of this and do not settle for less.
Make nurturing/preparing for your calling a part of your daily life. How you do this will depend on your particular calling. As a personal example, I feel called to write, so I make it a habit to write daily. I also read daily, because I know this will help me grow as a writer.
These things aren’t super “spiritual.” Sometimes I read something as basic as an essay on poetics in which religion is not mentioned at all, or I read a piece of literature just because it’s really good. These rituals help me grow in my calling, and in that God is glorified.
Living Each Day with Intention
In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh wrote the following:
For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together. What is drawing? How does one get there? It’s working one’s way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How can one get through that wall?—since hammering on it doesn’t help at all. In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently. And behold, how can one remain dedicated to such a task without allowing oneself to be lured from it or distracted, unless one reflects and organizes one’s life according to principles? And it’s the same with other things as it is with artistic matters. And the great isn’t something accidental; it must be willed.
Our hearts are so easily distracted; we are prone to wander, even from what we love. The only way to live a life of intention rather than a life of wandering is to live our days with intention, to think about what we do each day, to implement rituals that will help us grow. Above all else, as Christians we are lovers of God, for he has made us so. As 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” What better way to spend your days than in growing in this truth and responding to it in love!
Let your days stretch out into a portrait of this love, as an embodiment of it, reflecting what is true. Keep looking upward to God, and at the end of your life you’ll see the arch of its expanse, moving upwards still, until finally you breathe your last and your time here ends too with uplift.
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
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