“[He] does more than practice medicine. He doctors people. There’s a difference.” Charles Kuralt
I long ago came to realize that I might never “get it right.” Today, I know it for fact: I will never “get it right.” I’ll always be just “practicing” medicine. I suppose that the same can be said for everyone. We’ll always be just “practicing” in life. Never quite getting things perfect.
I guess in a sense we're all practitioners. Practitioners of our work. Practitioners in our relationships. Practitioners of our faith. We never do get things quite right, do we? We’re not perfect. What’s more, we never will be! The good news is that all this imperfection is all as God expects.
The use of the word practice these days almost always connotes the idea of trying to get better, or “get it right.” It is natural, of course, for those of us involved in sports or music to use the word practice to communicate the idea of repetition in order to get better. After all, “practice makes perfect,” right? What team will take home the trophy who has not, through tedious repetition, practiced the execution of different parts of the game? “Practice your free throws,” I’d always encourage my kids. And who wants to hear a song played by someone who has not practiced it? Artists practice and experiment with different colors, shapes, and materials. Fly fishermen practice tying flies. My golf game stinks because I spend no time practicing at the driving range or putting green.
The word “practice” comes from the Latin practica which, at its very essence, means to “be used.” For example, if we say that a kitchen or garden utensil is practic-al, we imply that it is use-full, or literally, full of use. The word, even though it is used as an adjective here, conveys a strong sense of action. Of course the verb “to practice” is an action verb. Even the noun “practice” (eg. a medical practice, or a legal practice) very literally, then, means a routine action. To “practice” medicine, then, is to “act routinely” in the area of medicine. To “practice” law is to “act routinely” in the area of law. The “practice” of faith is to “act routinely” in the area of faith. Be careful here, don’t equate “routine” with monotony, drudgery or vain repetition. My family practice is anything but monotonous. Oh, I show up every day, and I “act routinely,” lest my patients lose confidence, but “acting routinely” for me is a daily dose of variety, challenge, and excitement. Likewise, the “acting routinely” in the area of faith in Christ should not and need not be drudgery. Indeed, the practice of faith in Jesus Christ brings variety, challenge, and excitement, not in spite of “acting routinely” but as a direct result of “acting routinely.” Routine can be the source of great blessing! God’s intent is that routine would be a blessing to us, not a curse against us.
The primary reason that we “act routinely” is out of obedience. God calls us to an active, vibrant, use-full practice of our faith.
“This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” Ps. 119:56