I thought that the lesson in Institute was going to be on health, so I studied that this week. This week has been a bit of a spiritual trough: nothing testimony shaking, just meh. Prayers are okay, scripture study was okay, even going to the temple on the anniversary of me turning in my mission papers (missionverary) felt just okay. So let's combine these two ideas, the physical and spiritual health, and here's a breakthrough I've had:
Going through the motions is a necessary method of developing yourself.
It's true that it would be better if going to the gym I went full force, with love and passion, and it's likewise true that my prayers and obedience would be better, but not eating a cookie out of conviction and not eating a cookie out of habit cause similar results. I suspect --and realize that this is a nascent line of thought-- that when I am obedient or worshipful out of habit, I am also getting benefits.
Sometimes going through the motions gets a bad rap, like it's insincere or something, but the motions must be gone through. It's better for me to do some half-hearted running out of habit than to sit on my butt, whole-heartedly desiring a healthier cardiovascular system. Regardless of your passion, actions are important sometimes.
Further, the habits that we develop typically come from passion that inspired those habits. I don't have to seethe with a burning passion for dental hygiene every time I brush or floss my teeth, but at some point I was convinced deeply that such things are worth doing on a regular basis. In almost every aspect of my life, from buckling my seatbelt to studying for school to going to church, I have habits that I don't think about each time I do them. It doesn't mean that I am less committed to them if each time I do them doesn't require me to dig deep and ask why. It may mean that I have made what is sometimes called a "higher-order choice" earlier, a commitment to safety, to education, to my God that I knew would include the formation of certain habits that would contribute to those commitments.
Actually it would be quite weird and possibly painful if each time I did something I had to first conjure up the deep desire to do so. It would be difficult to get through a day without the consistency that comes from "going through the motions" of things that I have already committed to. Things that are instinctive to me, like washing my hands after going to the bathroom or locking my front door would become choices I would have to consciously and passionately recommit myself to.
Now that being said, I think that while going through the motions is necessary once we've made those deep, abiding commitments, I do think remembering those commitments is a big deal. That's probably why in the Church we're constantly renewing covenants and trying to remember previous dealings with the Lord that inspired those commitments. Also, in school and in good health, it's nice to have a reminder of why you're doing what you're doing, whether that takes place in the form of a report card or a doctor's visit or a pep-talk about nutrition. These things reignite the fire that sometimes burns with licking flames, and sometimes like a steady ember. It's best to have that abiding passion, but it's seldom realistic to expect it all the time, and it's just fine to keep going without it. Even necessary.