My wife works at Starbucks, four days a week she gets up at 3:45 am to arrive on time for the opening shift. When she comes in each morning, she works through the same checklist of tasks that must be accomplished by the time they open. Once she completes her list, she then makes the same drinks from the same ingredients, following the same recipes to provide, often to the same individuals, the drinks they so look forward to each morning. My wife lives a liturgical life. And so do the customers who stroll in a 5:00 am with bloodshot eyes longing for their morning fix of caffeine. They demand their venti quad-shot flat-white breve lattes to be precisely the same in flavor, temperature, and frothiness as it was the morning before. They want consistency; they demand uniform, unchanging, undeviating, unfluctuating, dependable, predictable drinks. If something is different about the latte, the customer's liturgy is disturbed, and they become disgruntled. The morning liturgy at Starbucks is just a microcosm of what it is to be human. All of life is liturgy; rhythms and habits that form who we are. They form what we love, how we think, and the way we act.
Our habits form us, and we form our habits through repetition. Old habits are hard to break, and new habits are hard to establish because the behavioral patterns we repeat continuously become imprinted in neural pathways. In a very real way, our habits form who we are. As a husband, I am only a good husband as long as I have the liturgies of a good husband. I don't get the honor of being a good husband if I have made a habit of ignoring the needs of my wife so I can watch sports when I get home from work. An engineer can only be a good engineer as long as he has the liturgies of a good engineer. An engineer will quickly lose his job and reputation if he decides he can tweak the rules of calculus because he's tired of doing the math.
Every act, every word, every thought, every love forms who we are. I am who I am, and you are who you are, because of the liturgies in our lives. We cannot be separated from the rhythms and habits that form who we are. The real question is, in what ways are our liturgies forming us?
My wife is a faithful employee only as long as she has formed the right rhythms and habits for the liturgical life of a barista. For followers of Christ, the same truth applies; we are faithful Christians only so far as we have formed the correct rhythms and habits for the liturgical life of a disciple. We don’t get to play around with the recipes of discipleship, and we don’t have the liberty to add or take away ingredients trying to concoct a new version of being a Christian. The liturgies of the faith are ancient, and we would do well to learn the formula and savor the blissful fulfillment it provides.