Growing up one lesson I learned from my parents was the importance of tradition and ritual. Obviously they didn’t sit me down and say, “Lee, we’re going to have some tradition now, and it’s important because … blah blah blah…”. I learned the importance of tradition and ritual by practice. Regular, intimate, planned and intentional moments with a specific function and purpose. In my childhood this would be story times, devotionals, back scratches, game times, church and worship, and meal times to name a few. Not that every event was regular, intimate, planned or intentional all at the same time, but that one or more of these aspects played in so that each moment was expected and anticipated with great excitement and longing. And more often than not, my anticipations and expectations were met and exceeded!
Many times, I feel this desire for tradition to be overlooked by American culture. We often view following routine as un-creative and stifling. But I would like to offer that tradition is only stifled when there is tradition only for the sake of tradition. Tradition that is intentional and heart-felt and creates and fulfills expetations of intimate relating is not stifling! It turns out to be quite the opposite. It builds a firm foundation from which to venture bravely into new realms of creative being, knowing that no matter what, those traditions can continue and that I can have an intimate moment with my loved ones.
Creating these traditions can be totally natural, and at first even unintentional. One thing about Sarah that I’m still getting used to is Sarah talking before we fall asleep. No matter how tired she is, she always finds the time to encourage me to pray each evening. More than that, after we’ve prayed, she continues to talk with me. At first this was frustrating and I largely ignored her seemingly mechanical comments on the day or plans for the next. As the evenings have moved on, I managed to participate in these “conversations” with grunts of acknowledgement. Last night, I was unusually attentive and talkative myself. I realized that these times before we fell asleep had become a precious ritual for us, and that making these times more intentional would continue to make them more and more intimate and meaningful.
On the other hand, traditions need to be free to change on their own as people change. Since Sarah and I began dating we wanted to set aside one night a week called “date night”. Where we intentionally planned a night of cooking dinner and watching a movie to enjoy working as a team, celebrating together, and being entertained together. At first it was really easy to “protect” this night. But as we continued dating and got enganged, many times we couldn’t help but schedule something on a date night. This could sometimes create friction because expectations were not met. We have learned since, that the time, place, or even activities involved don’t matter as much as the priority and intention. We book our schedule full for the week, but we always say to each other, “when can we do a date night”. So far, we’ve always done something. Sometimes we go out for dinner and a movie, sometimes we cook and stay in. I think this weekend we’ll even be doing something completely differerent. But, it will still accomplish its main purpose which is to create a purposeful time for Sarah and I to focus on and enjoy each other.