We were newlyweds, and as a late wedding gift, a priest friend invited us to attend our bishop’s annual fundraising gala. A black-tie affair, my husband needed a tuxedo and I a gown. Off to the department store we went, a bit reluctant to spend money on fancy clothes we thought we’d never wear again.
Fast forward to a random Friday three years later, and my husband walked out of the bathroom in his tuxedo, shoes shined, hair slicked down. I burst into laughter and asked him why he was wearing a tux moments before heading to work.
He explained that things were getting stale and boring in his classroom, and his high school Biology 1 students needed a shake-up, some fun on a Friday. So, he dubbed the day “Formal Friday,” donning his tux and bringing a smile and a laugh to 150 students.
My husband is nothing if not bold and clever.
When he got home that afternoon, I was eager to find out how the tuxedo had played with his students. Did they find him unbearably cheesy or were they amused and more dialed in, thinking that if their teacher was willing to look a fool, then he was also willing to work hard to help them understand biology?
“It killed, Katie. I think I’m going to do this every week.”
And with that, he set off for the thrift store to go find classic tuxedo vests and ties to spice up his future “Formal Friday” outfits.
Perceptive as he is, my husband knew his students needed a shake-up — so he did something amusing and unique to get them out of the mid-fall classroom funk. I admired his creativity in trying to find a way to bring energy and joy at the end of the week.
But it simultaneously made me feel guilty, as I realized I was in a rut myself — becoming lax, even lazy, with my prayer, and needing a shake-up.
I was far less perceptive of my own spiritual life’s ruts: ignoring regular prayer, avoiding daily Mass, making excuses for not setting my phone down and reading Scripture, convincing myself I needed to scroll Twitter rather than dive into the Word of God.
If you’re too far down a spiritual rut, it’s almost impossible to even realize you are stuck. The cavernous sides of the rut become comfortable, almost cozy.
Instead of looking up and out, and continuing to grow, we settle into a routine that perhaps proves detrimental to our relationship with the Lord, because it’s overly familiar and not stretching us.
Virtue is formed when we’re stretched — when we’re pushed out of our comfort zones and challenged to talk to God in a new way and focus our attention on him with renewed fervor. It’s not that the rut was a bad place, it was just a place I wasn’t growing. I was stuck, not blooming.
I set out to create my own “Formal Friday” routine. Wake up early, go to 6:30 a.m. Mass. Pray a rosary during my daughter’s midday nap instead of mindlessly staring at my phone. Cook a nice meal and dessert for Friday dinner, perhaps inviting friends over to enjoy it with us.
I set out to mark the day as something unique, to use Friday as a reset to the week and get us excited for a weekend of family time.
And just like my husband’s tuxedo in a classroom, my shake-up and renewed commitment to praying intentionally, serving my family in a special way and diving into Scripture on Fridays helped me push past a rut that had made me lazy and bored in my spiritual life.
It seems we may each need a tuxedo, especially after we’ve become aware of all the ways we aren’t growing but are just spinning our spiritual wheels. How can you get out of the rut?
(Katie Prejean McGrady is an international Catholic speaker, award-winning author, and host of the Ave Explores and Ave Spotlight podcasts. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and two daughters.)