Going Through the Motions

I caught myself doing it again not long ago. You know, going through the motions. I hate it when I realize I’m doing it—when I see that I’ve let something special slip into another hurried check on my to-do list.

Going through the motions isn’t always a bad thing, though. Making the bed, sorting laundry, doing dishes, etc. don’t require a lot of thought or emotional involvement. Going through the motions works just dandy for tasks like those. In fact, we should all get gold stars for going through those motions, right? :)

The problem comes when we get so hurried or distracted we let meaningful habits or endeavors lose their fire and become routine rather than being a passionate part of our routine.

My latest slip into this check-list mentality happened with my 1,000 Things journal that I started keeping after reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. I determined, like Ann, to list 1,000 things for which I was grateful.

I started this particular gratitude project with good intentions, with an acute awareness of things all around me that inspired gratitude in my soul. But a couple of months later I found myself jotting things down in a distracted, not-fully-present fashion. It dawned on me that I was just going through the motions. Just trying to get it done for that day.

I’ve caught myself doing the same thing at times during my personal prayer and worship times or during corporate worship at church. I’ve even slipped into it with another journal project I started years ago. In fact, any noble habit that’s part of my routine can fall prey to becoming routine if I’m not careful.

I don’t want to auto-pilot through meaningful activities while my mind is on other things. I want to be fully present in my gratitude, my worship, my relationships. I don’t want to be found just going through the motions. I want them to keep their fire. I want them to come from my heart. How about you?

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” Colossians 3:23 KJV

*Flickr photo by Courtney Dirks, Creative Commons License


  1. Good reminders, Cheryl. I can too easily fall into auto-pilot too. Thanks for the reminder.

    Hey, I’m doing the 1000 gifts things too! It is revolutionary! My kids are joining me in it too, and we have one common notebook that rests on the kitchen counter. So wonderful to see various handwritings scroll thankfulness across the pages!

    Jennifer Dougan

  2. What a great idea to have your kids join you in the 1,000 gifts notebook! After reading your latest blog post, I wondered if you had read Ann’s 1,000 Gifts and were trying to apply it to your life. It IS revolutionary!

  3. Great reminder. It’s so easy to go on auto-pilot as you say. Life is too valuable to let it slip away.

  4. I sometimes catch myself doing this very thing when reading my Bible. Of all places to “go through the motions”… have mercy. Anyway, it does take time to train the mind to move in a new direction. Thank God for the guidance, tenderness, and patience of the Holy Spirit to lead me along the way. It all really comes back to Him.

    Great post, Cheryl.


  5. Cheryl! I’m stopping by from your Stuff Christians Like link. You are an excellent writer and I love your blog. I particularly enjoyed this post because I, too, am on a quest for not going into auto-pilot on tasks that have to do with people. I want to be a constant encourager to those around me. Thanks so much for sharing! You found a new follower today!

  6. Oh, Cheryl! How I have missed your voice. I have been going on auto-pilot for the past 2 months, so it is appropriate that I read this post as I jump-start my efforts to live fully and be present. Thanks, Friend! :)

  7. Kirsten, I’m so glad you found this post timely. It’s so good to have you back!

    Niki, thanks so much for introducing yourself and for your sweet words of encouragement. I look forward to hearing more from you!

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