Different gym and different machines.  Some things remain the same – 45 pounds still weigh 45 pounds, 5 mph on a new treadmill is 5mph.  But different equipment allowed for exercises and motions that my body was not accustomed to.  And something that I’m not accustomed to carries the potential for growth.

In gym lingo, it’s called “shocking your muscles.”  It sounds harsher than it is.  It’s not like it utilizes jolts of electricity or midlevel contraptions.  We have to trick our muscles, because muscles are smarter than we give them credit for.  (“Muscle Heads,” on the other hand, live up to their reputation.)  Muscles figure out the easiest, most energy-efficient way to perform a task.  They develop ruts, so to speak.  But deviate from your particular norm, and your muscles bark and complain throughout the stretching and tearing and rebuilding process.  

Deviating from my norm comprises half of my plans for 2014.  The other half?  Routine.  This may sound like an odd combination, but I want this upcoming season of my life to be marked by routine and change. 

I’ve been working out with a moderate level of consistency for about 20 years.  Routine.  And I also push my body through different exercises as I sense my physical conditioning plateau.  Change.  Routine and change are effective workout partners.  

Breaking from this example of physical health, let’s parallel this with a broader need for health, the health of your soul.  (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and benches 300 pounds, yet loses his own soul?)  

I recently completed a 2-year program in Spiritual Formation in which our key mantra was, “The best thing we have to offer others is our transforming self.”  My wife, my kids, my church, my neighbors – they need my ongoing inner transformation into greater and greater Christlikeness.  Remaining the same ol’ Gary is not my goal; transformation is a must, a mandate, a holy calling.  Thus the need for upending the norm, for shaking things up.

In our culture that over-values “new” and “latest and greatest,” don’t underestimate the need for a routine.  Routine anchors your schedule and constantly reminds you of the finish line.  A routine forms a template for your day, week, and month – a pattern that arranges your life around the activities and people that leads you to the fulfillment of your God-given purpose.  

Routines are consistent workouts forming a healthy foundation for transformation.  But, lest a routine becomes a “rut-tine,” shock your Spiritual muscles by engaging in different experiences that open yourself up to God’s fresh graces.  Engage in different exercises that mix things up without deviating from that God-ordained finish line.

Routinely different.  These two words sum up a healthy pattern for growth.