Bible, boredom, Canterlot Boutique, Christian Life, Christianity, devotional, enthusiasm, God, inspiration, inspirational, Jesus, motivation, motivational, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, Rarity, religion, rut, sameness, Sassy Saddles, stuck in a rut
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Canterlot Boutique”
If you have ever had a passion for something, whether it be athletics, hobbies, a fandom, or even something you have sought to do as a career, then odds are at one point you were where Rarity was in this episode and have experienced being stuck in a rut.
As Rarity experienced, a rut is not only not the best of places to be personally but is also poison to inspiration, drive, and enthusiasm. When she found herself going from her style of personally making each dress in her boutique to suit each individual who came in to simply churning out the same dress on what seemed to be practically an assembly line, she rapidly found her passion for her work fading. Even though dress-making was something she loved to do, when she found it robbed of any creativity or inspiration, any “spark” of uniqueness or intrigue, or any attention to an individual, even the lovely gown she made endless copies of became boring, dull, and an eyesore to look at let alone stitch. What was once her passion and calling now became a chore to go through, and what love and care used to go into her clothing became replaced with a robotic set of movements as Rarity grew more and more miserable.
The same thing can happen with anyone’s passion. If one catches themselves doing the same thing over and over with no innovation, no inspiration, nothing new ever changing, and nothing to give it any new blood or energy, it eventually becomes a rut as well. I know from personal experience considering I write fanfiction on the side. When a story ends up going long without having any ideas or injection of something new or fun, the entire work becomes a chore. (I imagine the same is for a lot of fanfiction writers…hence why so many fanfictions are eventually abandoned.) The same can happen for any passion, and that’s something to be on guard against. Even if it’s something you have a talent or a love for, being stuck in a rut can kill it and make the whole activity a boring drudgery.
And few places I know of are more prone to the danger of being stuck in a rut than Churches. Even in the lives of Christians in general.
Church communities seem to be highly susceptible to gaining senses of groupthink and group complacency. As a result, ministries can often stagnate, adopting “one size fits all” approaches with no attention to the individual, or fail to adapt when culture and times change. While I am by no means an advocate of changing for the sake of change, I’ve been in Churches before that were insistent on keeping things the way they had always been done, and many members were insistent on doing the same. As a result, the Churches failed to grow or went downhill. Everyone kept hearing the same sort of service every week, everyone kept seeing the same old ineffective ministries, and everything always stayed the same. I found myself zoning out and falling asleep in that Church, and when I paid attention the sermons and messages could have been given by a Facebook inspirational posting…if even that. I still go back at Christmas with family members to one of these Churches, but the services are still bland, still boring, and have the congregation speaking in monolithic tones while the pastors fake enthusiasm. As a result, even on Christmas the building isn’t that full. Others will share how such Churches are often doomed to failure when those who insist on keeping things the same way they always were finally start to die out or grow disheartened.
The same goes for Christian Life. A lot of Christians might find a ministry or way of ministering that seems to work very well, and they embrace it wholeheartedly and throw themselves into it. They engage in this eagerly because it’s what they’re good at and they found it’s effective. But over time, the sameness of doing the same ministry over and over with no change, or subscribing to the same formula and trying to apply it to everyone, grows tedious. It starts to seem less like something new and exciting and more comfortable. Then it seems less like comfortable and more like a formula. Then it seems less like a formula and more like (you guessed it) a chore.
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God warned against the dangers of getting into a “rut”. The old prophets spoke on God’s behalf against the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. Why? Because there was no spirit behind them or genuine obedience. It was simply a routine observance with no heart and no passion, enough to even where the holocausts God ordained became loathesome to him. “Hear, you earth:I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law. What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.” (Jeremiah 6:19-20) “‘The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!'” (Isaiah 1:11-15).
Likewise in the New Testament, the big offenders were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They insisted on doing things the same way they had always done them without ever understanding why or the spirit behind them; simply focusing on the external motions. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24) And it wasn’t enough for them to grow angry when people wanted to change things up. They actually wanted people dead for doing so. As a result, they rejected the saving message of God all together to their eternal peril.
If you find yourself stuck in a rut when it comes to your own devotional living, or if you find yourself doing things that seemed spiritual at first but now seem to mean nothing or just be as routine as brushing your teeth, it might be time to do what Rarity did in this episode. Stop, take a look around, and see if you can’t find a spark of new inspiration. Maybe it’s time to try growing your current ministry. Or maybe it’s time to try expanding into a different ministry or different devotional life.
And as far as Churches that are in a rut, if it’s in your power, see if you can’t do something to inject a new ministry or fire into your community if that’s the case, or at least suggest doing something different. It’s amazing how shook up a congregation can get if they’re so used to doing something traditionally and even a small new thing comes along different from the traditional service.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your instruction and warning in the Bible against doing the same things for so long that eventually they lose all spirit or heart inside them. When I feel the fire of my own faith starting to ‘grow cold’ and treating my devotional life and Christian walk as a routine drudgery, help me to remember my ‘first love’ and find a way to grow passionate for you, the Gospel, and for saving the lost again. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”