When Tradition Gets the Best of Me

I would not blame you if you started reading this post thinking it was going to be about the church practices we grew up with and the grip they can have on us. I would not be shocked if you approached my words with a “haven’t we changed enough” attitude, after all the music in church has been modernized and the dress code revised and the sermons simplified. Hey, I get you, I fought in the worship wars and did not complete my service unscathed. Words were the weapon of choice and spiritualized preferences the battleground. The first casualty of this war was grace and the second unity but this is not what this post is about.

Tradition is living in a certain way based on a long standing acceptance of the method.

Tradition is not all bad or all good, it just is. There is comfort in the predictability of tradition. There is stagnancy in tradition’s unchallenged never changing approach. Tradition fans the flames of nostalgia making us feel all warm and fuzzy. Tradition extinguishes the fire of creativity that seeks to embrace a new way of living.

There are so many traditions that become the reality of how we live.

I am not trying to be hard on tradition. I am not trying to bring an end to it through this blog, as if that would even be possible. I am trying to point out that tradition is like the difference between rust and patina, they both appear over time and represent a permanent transformation but one adds to the value and the other depreciates it. We need to know what we should keep and what we should throw away.

With a little thought we can pinpoint most of our traditions.

We go to church Sunday because we have always gone to church Sunday. We have communion on Good Friday but not on Easter Sunday because that is the way it is always done. The in-laws exchange gifts on Christmas Eve and the out-laws on Christmas Day (you decide which is which based on how much you like the family you married into) because that’s just the way it is. For every annual occasion we seem to have some sort of tradition. Thanksgiving, vacation, Super Bowl, Fourth of July etc. have traditions because we are living in a certain way based on a long standing acceptance of the method.

We need to apply more than a little thought to our traditions.

When we think of traditions we usually think of things connected to special occasions. If tradition really is living in a certain way based on a long standing acceptance of the method, then we don’t need a special occasion to form a tradition. The truth is, tradition is really a nice way to say that you have a way of doing things and can’t see it being done differently. If we really think about the things that we view as givens in life then we will quickly come across our own traditional view of how God works.

There is both comfort and stagnancy in tradition.

A few months ago I posted about changing the way I pray in my blog post Godly Expectancy. In the post I said “Once I am done telling God how I see it, it is time for me to wait and let God reveal how He sees it and how He wants to address it.” Although this is a statement that applies to every situation, in that post I was referring to my health, my finances and my ministry. As I was praying one day God revealed to me that it was time to start asking others to pray for my health, my finances and my ministry.

I had always underplayed the impact my health was having on my life, I never mentioned my finances and I kept my fears about future ministry quiet. I found myself telling others that God was in control after all isn’t that what we are supposed to say? I swallowed my pride, breaking my tradition of acting like everything was alright and asked others to pray for me. I had been living like everything was just short of perfect when my real world was full of sleepless nights, pain pills and depression. I had become comfortable creating a positive narrative saying the things that, in my tradition, good Christians say.

I had also created another tradition, one that left me stagnant in how I viewed myself. Alone one day I allowed myself to dream that one day my health might be completely restored. A wave of panic set over me as I realized that life without being sick was actually scary. I had grown stagnant, unable to picture life any other way. My health had me living in a certain way based on a long standing acceptance of the method. I wasn’t ready to change because the way I was living had become the norm just like any tradition.

Tradition is living in a certain way based on a long standing acceptance of the method.

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)

View this passage and much more at BibleGateway.com

Traditions are often rules created out of human experience that become our truth about who God is, how He wants us to act and what He wants to do.

8 comments

  1. Wow. I had never considered “tradition” in this light, but you are absolutely right! I’m sorry to hear that your health is an issue. Did I know that? I will pray for you as soon as I click on “post comment.” Excellent post, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that, it’s kind of a “what God wants should be my tradition or religion, what I want is not a good tradition or religion unless it is what God wants – thanks for commenting, it expanded the scope of this post to address even more of our life journey.

      Liked by 1 person

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