I came across this phrase, “idolizing normalcy,” in my reading the other day (Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs). It captured a tension that I had not quite been able to put into words previously. I am an enthusiastic cheerleader for routines and systems. I believe that good routines are like the bones that attach to the muscle, ligaments, and tendons. Without reliable, repeatable ways of working, our arms would flop, unable to serve any reasonable purpose. Systems keep us moving forward. Life does not work well without effective systems and routines.

But the phrase, idolizing normalcy, captures a human tendency which I recognize in myself. If something is good, I tend to make an idol of it. As soon as it becomes an idol, the good transforms into a demon. The phrase, idolizing normalcy, identifies a subtle temptation to settle so thoroughly into our routines that the predictability becomes the totality of life. Routine can easily become a bubble of protection keeping us from the threat of life lived outside of our safely erected boundaries.

This is not how I want to live. Life is a spectacular adventure. Or at least it can be. We should be excited that we have “people to see, places to go, things to do.” Routines are not meant to be armor shielding us from change and protecting us from risk. Normal days provide the resources that allow us to experience exhilarating adventure.

The person consumed by routines is like the traveler who each day packs up the car for a beautiful trip, starts the car, and then sits all day long in the driveway. At the end of the day, he gets out, unpacks, and goes to bed. The next day he packs and sits all over again.

We need a balance between routines and spontaneity. Each day brings its own rhythm. Some days are uneventful, but necessary for progress while others are wonderful adventures, full of surprises and potholes, but also ripe with engaging challenges, beautiful vistas, and immense satisfaction. A complete life needs both.

When was your last grand adventure? Are you using routines and systems as a means to keep life predictable and controllable? Life has purpose. We were created for meaning and called to make a difference in the world around us. Like the Israelites in the desert, who turned the blessing of gold from the Egyptians into a horrifying idol, let’s not turn the power of routine into an excuse to abdicate the great adventure beckoning us each and every day. Live boldly. Love deeply. Follow God’s call.