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When life seems repetitive


“This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep gratification from the mundane” (Thomas Keller).


Introduction

It’s a common social media experience for some of us: on an average day, we open our feed and see posts about a friend’s birthday or wedding anniversary celebration, an ex-classmate’s euphoria at reaching the summit of a mountain, a co-worker’s engagement or promotion, a friend’s new house, etc. As we scroll along, it seems that life is all about exciting and memorable moments, with everyone else experiencing more of them than us. Those of us who are retired or not so tech-savvy may envy our peers who are enjoying life with frequent overseas trips to exotic places, relaxing on a cruise ship, dining or golfing with friends at overseas resorts, enjoying baking or dancing lessons, and the like.


In reality though, if we count all the birthday and anniversary celebrations, graduations, promotions, weddings, vacations, housewarmings and career changes, they pale in comparison to the number of times we cook and wash dishes, do the laundry, go to work, do grocery shopping, help with our kid’s homework, mind children, give care, exercise, take naps, and engage in conversations with family members and friends. Our lives are unmistakably made up of these repetitive activities. Being human though, life can get the better of us sometimes. The stress of managing the mundane and repetitive things in our lives can make us grow weary and lead us to wonder, “What’s the point? Is there more to life than mundane activities? How can I find meaning and fulfilment in this life?”


God’s blessings of repetition

Paula Wilding, a Christian author, has this to say: “God is using our everyday, seemingly repetitive life to do a deeper work of sanctification in our heart. Consider these blessings of repetition:


1. It teaches us how to act.

“If repetition is part of God’s plan, we can stop fighting it and look to see what He’s teaching us, how He’s working and whom He wants us to serve. We can have a heart of gratitude, a sense of awe and eyes that see the small blessings we easily take for granted. Is He teaching us humility while cleaning a toilet? Servant-heartedness as we work with colleagues with whom we may not agree? Dependence with prayer as we send kids off to school? Thankfulness for our food when we’re making dinner? Kindness during an argument with a spouse?”


2. It teaches us how to react.

“Knowing I’m surrounded by people who are also dealing with repetitiveness allows me to show them grace, speak a kind word and give the benefit of the doubt. Instead of feeling annoyed after I’m cut off in traffic, I consider that God may be using it to teach me patience and how to have a Christ-honouring response. Instead of being impatient with a child who has disobeyed once again, I can see it as an opportunity to show mercy while teaching them about responsibility. Instead of feeling insulted by a colleague, I can bring the offense to the Lord and ask for help in speaking clearly with grace.”


3. It prepares us.

“The book of Daniel highlights amazing events in Daniel’s life, surviving the lion’s den and the fiery furnace among them. However, there were actually just nine such events recorded over the course of his life. Nine events over 80 plus years. What was he doing during all that other time? “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10). Daniel made a habit of prayer, thanksgiving and trust.


Similarly, the repetition of spiritual disciplines practiced in the easy days can prepare us for the hard days ahead. God doesn’t waste any of our days, so the redundant days must be good for us too. The repetition of reading the Scriptures, praying, living in community, and repenting are gifts. God wants us to take advantage of these blessings daily.”


4. It reminds us of God’s mercy.

“We can be sure that one thing we do repetitively is sin. We could be overwhelmed and oppressed by our sinful nature if not for the repetitive forgiveness of our Lord. He’s gracious toward us in the seemingly endless cycle of sin, repentance and forgiveness, even when we repeat the same sin over and over. We must remember that He delights to forgive us, He remembers His covenant towards us (Gen. 9:15-16) and He removes our transgressions (Ps. 103:12).”


Encouragement to press on

Paula Wilding goes on to remind us: “God’s gift of repetitive days mirrors His repetitive work of sanctification. It’s all for our good in becoming more like Jesus and will, thankfully, continue until we go home to glory. So, be encouraged in your repetitive life, knowing that God ordains our days — even the ones that aren’t exciting enough to post about.”


May we be encouraged to press on with our daily routines and responsibilities, being reminded that Christ is honoured through every small act of love, kindness and consideration that we extend to those around us. May the Lord help us to find inspiration and fulfilment from the words of Thomas Keller as we endeavour to live our ordinary life to His glory: “This is the great challenge: to maintain passion for the everyday routine and the endlessly repeated act, to derive deep gratification from the mundane.” Amen.


- Elder Elgin Chan

 

Adapted from Paula Wilding (2023, April 21), When Life Feels Repetitive. The Gospel Coalition. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/life-feels-repetitive/


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