From Rut to Ritual

I love Starbuck’s new fall advertising slogan, “Take comfort in rituals.” With the cooler weather and holidays coming on, it sounds appealing, homespun, and almost magnetic. The mega coffee shop is hoping to sell more comfort in a cup this autumn by drawing you into the sweetness of including them as part of your daily routine.

Brilliant marketing.

There’s nothing wrong with it. It works. Routine and ritual may become boring after a while, but it is what sets the steady course of our lives and keeps us from veering too far off the quiet center of home and meaningful foundation.

My daughter responded to an hourly schedule as a baby and toddler, although she fought it some. She has grown old enough now to appreciate the discipline of getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, scheduled meals, etc. Everyone eventually reaches this point.

Ritual is a bit different from routine. It is the icing on the cake. It’s the routine of a cup of cocoa and story at the end of the day before you turn out the light. Prayer and Bible study in the morning is ritual, along with that special cup of joe. That ritual though becomes nourishment and necessary, which just proves how intertwined the icing and the cake really are. Even a family movie night. Special time spent in memorable ways is not optional; it is essential as oxygen, food, and water.

The Jewish people have had more longevity in creating special times and memories for their children, families, and communities. Every Shabbat equals the same rituals. Every festival and holy day become eternal truths reinforced by the joy of remembrance, observation, tradition, and ritual. The passing of the years drives the truths deeper and becomes sweeter to celebrate.

Whatever is accomplished routinely and creates warm, fuzzy memories can be considered ritual.  Rituals create the fences around the borders of our lives. In difficult times, you need to lean on fence or visualize the extremity of your boundaries in order to cope.

Routine and ritual allow a person to “go through the motions” during heartache or trial without effort. And if there is no routine to fall back on, than life’s afflictions can have graver influences.

When my family and I moved to a different culture in 1996, it was the lack of routine and ritual that was the hardest to take. We had plowed deeply in the USA before coming creating family routine and traditions, and maybe we were in a rut in some ways. But the new plowing of new schedules and routine was painful. We faced new borders, new variables, different problems. Nothing was the same. And I found that the very thing that had been a strength in the states had become a weakness in a foreign land: To take comfort in the simplicity of ritual.

In time, new rituals sprung up. And now having spent the last 14 years of my life traveling internationally and finding myself often without the flannel softness of routine, I have learned to recreate new traditions quickly. They help me adapt. They help me get through the gray days. They set things in order in my often chaotic life.

So now I am lifting my Starbuck’s Americano cup, as I bridge the gap between rut and ritual for a few minutes with all kinds of lifesaving routines and good coffee.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. S. Etole says:

    warm thoughts on an autumn day …

  2. amy in peru says:

    I feel like I live this post. 🙂

    I think I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about…


    amy in peru

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