In his recent book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K.A. Smith argues that we think of our daily routines as “’things we do’ and might not recognize that they’re doing something to us” (pg. 128). Several weeks ago I read an interview that Justin Taylor did with Smith on the release of his book. The interview challenged me to think about the rhythms of our home and how they are instructing our children (and us parents). Therefore, I was anxious to read this section of Smith’s book.
The focus of the book is that discipleship is more than mere knowledge transfer. What Smith is getting at in this section is that we could teach our children biblical truth verbally and then teach them a competing message(s) with the household rhythms (habits/routines). Smith wrote:
It means we should be concerned about the ethos of our households—the unspoken ‘vibe’ carried in our daily rituals. Every household has a ‘hum,’ and that hum has a tune that is attuned to some end, some telos. We need to tune our homes, and thus our hearts, to sing his grace. That tuning requires intentionality with regard to the hum, the constant background noise generated by our routines and rhythms. (pg. 127, emphasis mine)
You could have Bible ‘inputs’ every day and yet still have a household whose frantic rhythms are humming along with the consumerist myth of production and consumption. You might have Bible verses on the wall in every room of the house and yet the unspoken rituals reinforce self-centeredness rather than sacrifice. (pg. 127)
He makes clear that this is important not just for families with young kids, but also households with older kids to empty-nesters to a household of college singles. In other words, all households should consider their rhythms. Smith suggests that each household take an “audit.”
Thus each household and family does well to take an audit of its daily routines, looking at them through a liturgical lens. What Story is carried in those rhythms? What vision of the good life is carried in those practices? What sorts of people are made by immersion in these cultural liturgies? (pg. 128)
When he says “Story” and “good life” he is referring to what vision of aspiration (telos) our daily routines are casting. Our rhythms and routines are telling the story of what we consider to be the good life. Is the hum of our household saying comfort is the goal? Is the goal; “more, give me more”? Is the goal, “make something of yourself (or make a name for yourself)”? Is the goal; “us four, no more”? Is the goal; “be happy and self-fulfilled”? Indeed, the background hum is often in competition with what we proclaim. We need rhythms that complement and match our proclamation.
Smith is clear that these rhythms will not look the same for everyone. Household routines could vary depending on context and household make-up (young kids, empty-nesters, etc.). However, he did express the necessity of each household being a part of the local church. Then each household must exercise intentionality in auditing and adjusting their rhythms so that they will be more in step with the Gospel vision of loving God and loving others. The Gospel vision of humility, service, sacrifice…of taking up your cross and following Jesus. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:9-10, 19).