Bob Tamasy: "But We’ve Always Done It That Way!”

Thursday, December 6, 2018 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

There’s a story about an aging monk who had a pet cat. The feline was fine, except when its owner was engaging in silent meditation. Then its constant meowing and rubbing up against his leg was distracting, disrupting his spiritual reflection. So he decided to tie it to a tree during his quiet times. When he was finished, the monk would release the cat and bring it back into his room.

Time passed and one day the monk died, leaving behind his pet. His fellow monks dutifully continued to care for the cat just as their deceased brother had done. One day the cat also died; the monks obtained another cat to replace it in the dead monk’s memory. As they had with the other cat, once a day they would tie it to a tree.

When asked why they were doing that, the men of the holy order replied, “That’s what Brother Jerome always did. We never asked him why, but we don’t want to ruin his tradition.”

It’s been said that the seven last words of the church are, “But we’ve always done it that way!” Many traditions and practices are well-considered and worth perpetuating, but sometimes rituals are repeated simply out of habit (no pun on the monk story), without any good reason.

For instance: Orders of service that never change. The same types of music always being played, without variation. The same version of the Bible always being read without question. Sacraments performed on the same Sunday of each month. Identical prayers being repeated. Maybe the same Christmas program every year; the only changes being who fills the key roles of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. Having three wise men in the Nativity scene, even though most likely the Magi didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until months after Jesus was born – and no one knows for certain there were three of them.

It’s like Heather, who routinely would cut the ends off the Christmas ham while preparing it for her family’s holiday dinner. One day her husband, Henry, asked, “Honey, why do you cut the ends of the ham before putting it in the oven?” “Well,” she responded, “that’s the way my mom always did it.”

The next Christmas the family went to Heather’s mom’s for dinner, and as expected, her mother cut the ends off the ham before putting in to bake. Henry seized the opportunity to ask, “Mom, that’s what Heather does – cuts the ends off the ham before baking it. Why do you do it?” The mother-in-law replied, “That’s what I learned from my mother.”

As it happened, Grandma was joining them for dinner, so after she arrived, Henry couldn’t wait to pop the question. “Grandma Harriet, why do you cut the ends of the Christmas ham?” Without blinking an eye, she answered, “Well, early on as a young bride, I only had a small baking pan, and the hams were always too big. So I cut off the ends so the ham would fit into it.”

Traditions and rituals are good, as long as their practice remains useful and purposeful. But to maintain them simply because “we’ve always done that way before” isn’t a very good reason. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

This suggests that time might one day come to end, when the “season” for a certain tradition has drawn to a close. It’s true even for our spiritual rituals, like a daily prayer or quiet time. Must they always take place at a specific time and/or place? When we study the Bible, do we follow the same routine, never bothering to “mix it up” and experiment with a new approach? If we pray for God’s blessing before meals, do we use the same words every time? Do we find it necessary to sit in the same spot during each worship service?

As long as these practices continue to enhance our walk with God, there’s probably no reason to change. But as devotional writer Oswald Chambers stated, let’s make sure they constitute our time with the Lord – and not just our time with our habit.

- - - -

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.


2nd Missionary Baptist Church Celebrates 74th Women’s Day

Get It Back To You Is Topic At Metro Tab Church Sunday

Steve Ellison: How Can One Keep Warm Alone?


The community is invited to Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2305 E. Third Street, for the 74th annual Women’s Day Celebration, on Sunday, Sept. 22. The 8 a.m. guest speaker is Pastor Terryl ... (click for more)

The message at Metro Tab Church on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. will be "Get it Back to You" brought by Dr. Steve Ball, founder and senior pastor. The public is invited to come and enjoy a cup coffee ... (click for more)

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Solomon asks, “how can one man alone take care of himself?” His obvious conclusion is that he cannot. A man needs family and friends surrounding him. Solomon points out ... (click for more)


Church

2nd Missionary Baptist Church Celebrates 74th Women’s Day

The community is invited to Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2305 E. Third Street, for the 74th annual Women’s Day Celebration, on Sunday, Sept. 22. The 8 a.m. guest speaker is Pastor Terryl James, Washington Hills United Methodist Church (UMC), Chattanooga. Pastor James is a native Chattanoogan who serves in several church and civic roles, including the Design Team for Strengthening ... (click for more)

Get It Back To You Is Topic At Metro Tab Church Sunday

The message at Metro Tab Church on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. will be "Get it Back to You" brought by Dr. Steve Ball, founder and senior pastor. The public is invited to come and enjoy a cup coffee with the pastoral staff before service starts. The praise and worship is led by worship pastors Adam and Olivia Aziz along with the Metro praise team, choir and band. The children's pastors ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Tennessee American Water Begins To Restore Water Service

Tennessee American Water successfully completed repairs to the impacted water main around 4 a.m. and has begun the process of restoring the system. Officials said, "The return to normal operating conditions will occur slowly and return last to customers at the highest elevations within the system, such as Lookout Mountain and Elder Mountain. We anticipate that most of the system ... (click for more)

Darrell Hill, 20, Shot And Killed On Dahlia Street; 3 Teenagers Arrested

Darrell Hill, 20, was shot and killed on Dahlia Street Thursday afternoon. Three teenagers have been arrested for the homicide. At approximately 12:14 p.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a p erson shot call in the 3900 block of Dahlia Street. Upon arrival, police located the victim lying on the ground with an apparent gunshot wound. Hamilton County EMS pronounced him ... (click for more)

Opinion

We Remember Sept. 11th

Our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001 and our world changed. Muslim terrorists called al-Qaeda, with training camps all around the world were responsible for the death of the more than 3,000 victims. This is an enemy unlike any we have ever faced. There are multiple countries, multiple fronts and multiple threats. This enemy is committed to the absolute destruction of the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Country Music’s Top 98

It was in the late ‘80s, not long before Auburn and Tennessee would play early in the year to set the early pace in the annual SEC race. I needed Auburn football coach Pat Dye to help me understand the early-season strategy of what the loser of the game between Tennessee and Auburn would need to do to stay viable in the home stretch of SEC play that year; it affected bowl invitations ... (click for more)