There comes a point when the course of our lives falls into our own hands. For the large majority, this shift begins taking place around age 18, that golden age when our high school career is over and life as a college freshman begins.
Gone are the days of drifting from day to day in the same routine. It becomes our job to get to classes, make meals, and yes — do laundry. Even if we don’t go far from home, a certain independence is assumed when we reach this period in our lives.
We make our own schedule, from classes to meal times. Our routines are ruptured, and it is up to us to create new ones. That kind of freedom can be exciting, but it also requires us to embrace change, which can be destabilizing to say the least.
Everyone loves a good routine. Routines are familiar and easy. They get us through our day and help us check things off the list.
But they can also take away intentionality. This isn’t a big deal when it comes to tasks such as brushing our teeth or grocery shopping, but it can become a problem when we apply it to something that should be full of meaning, rather than mindless.
Take our faith lives, for example. Leaving home is a time of great change and presents us with an opportunity to take responsibility for practicing our faith. Suddenly, going to Mass on Sundays becomes a choice, not a household rule. We no longer have our families to pray with us before supper or to encourage us to go to confession. Perhaps leaving high school has even resulted in losing a close faith community, such as a youth group.
Whatever the case, our environment is changing. And inevitably, we will change with it.
So how can we re-center ourselves during these periods of transition?
When I left for school, I moved two hours away from home. It may not seem like a great distance, but as someone who was once a homebody, it felt like I was moving across the country. I no longer had the comfort of familiarity that I depended on.
I had to think about what Mass I would go to. I had to consider whether or not to pursue outside faith formation groups. I had to remind myself again and again (and again) to pray before meals.
I had to approach with intentionality each aspect of my faith life that had once been assumed. I had to ask myself, is it important that I go to Mass tonight? Should I join this praise-and-worship group? Do I have time for confession today? And with each question came the deeper consideration: Why? Why should I spend an hour at Mass instead of in the library studying? Why did it matter?
I had to remind myself what my faith meant to me. I had to reevaluate what exactly my relationship with God was and where I wanted it to go — because from here, it was up to me.
A lot of us leave home with a great foundation for our faith lives. Maybe it’s a result of our parents, our schools, or friends. While we cannot build without a foundation, our faith life requires so much more than that to sustain it.
It requires making choices that feed us. It involves pushing ourselves beyond the mindless and mundane and approaching our relationship with God intentionally. This means asking questions and not always getting answers that satisfy us. It means walking toward change, instead of shying away from it. Most of all, it means carrying out each act of faith with a purpose.
For me, this involved finding new ways to practice my faith. I found a devotional suited to my taste and carved out time in the morning to study it. I started to tune into the Christian music station on the radio on my drive to work. I intentionally chose points in my day where I needed motivation and inspiration and used them as moments to strengthen my faith.
There will always be occurrences in our lives that interrupt our routines, whether it’s heading off to school or starting a new job. While routines are safe and easy, if we look at these times of change as opportunities to break from the norm and reevaluate where we want our lives to be heading, we allow ourselves the space we need to grow. There is never a better time to take ownership of our faith lives than when we are questioning it most.