Last year was a year of again. Each day in 2020 dawned and we got to work again, fed and homeschooled our children again, watched COVID-19 numbers rise again, wondered “When will this be over?” again. Despite the arrival of the vaccine and the hope of a new year, we awoke on January 1 to a long wait for the vaccine, half-hearted resolutions, and the new virus strain making its American debut. We are left staring down the winter months of dogged monotony at home. But perhaps these unyielding months of the pandemic have revealed something we have not wanted to address: Our lives are full of monotony and repetition, and they always will be.
Trying to evade a life marked by repetition is misguided—repetition is a fundamental reality of being human, and the pandemic has only heightened our awareness of it. We are creatures of again; we are made for again. So why does repetition feel like a curse instead of a blessing?
The Christian story explains this seeming dissonance. God has made all of creation to exist and flourish in a repetitive pattern (Gen. 1–2). The heavens declare his glory, the sun runs its course with joy (Ps. 19:1–6), the rivers clap their hands, and mountains sing his praises (Ps. 98:8); creation glorifies God through its constancy—including humans, God’s most treasured creatures. Not only do our bodies require daily food and rest; we are also made to find purpose in knowing and glorifying God again and again.
But the Fall has made us bitter and unfeeling, stealing our joy in repetition rather than giving it. We find ourselves looking for a way out, grasping at any hope that promises relief from our tedious lives. We must learn to participate with our faithful and imaginative God to rediscover the delight of repetition for which we are made.
In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton chastises adults for our disconnected view of reality, arguing that children understand the heart of God better than adults. Like children who beg for an adult to “do it again!” and see another opportunity for delight, so the Creator delights to knit together another human, grow a new tree, or tirelessly craft a field of daisies. “For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony,” Chesterton writes. “But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony … for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
My children’s world is completely oriented around the basic truth that I will provide for them, and because they trust me, they inhabit their world with free hearts. The free spirit that children possess is not naivete; it is an accurate trust that grows out of a trustworthy relationship, the same kind of relationship that God invites us into day after day.
Though part of growing up is navigating the brokenness of our world, Jesus exhorts us to retain a childlike heart—a heart that trusts in the provision of the Father (Matt. 6:25–34). He has made us to participate with him, presenting our needs, desiring intimacy, and delighting when he provides again. This is how we retain a childlike heart, a fierce and free spirit that trusts in the Lord and delights in his invitation to trust him again.
Adulthood often strips us of something that we were meant to be—creative beings who see a world of sameness through imaginative eyes. In losing the joy of routine, we diminish our capacity for knowing and reflecting our God, who reveals himself in the small rhythms of daily life. Again is the place of transformation where he chooses to meet with us, grow us, and offer us new mercies every morning (Lam. 3:23). We are made for repetition.
Though the tedium of daily life can feel soul-crushing for most of us, Chesterton argues that God is strong enough to exult in monotony because he delights in sustaining sameness while also creating newness. The whole of Scripture testifies that God delights in providing for his people again. We see it in his covenants, his willingness to remove our transgressions (Ps. 103:12), his prophets who speak difficult words out of love (Jer. 35:15), the manna on the ground each morning (Ex. 16:4). The culmination of our Father’s desire to provide is in Christ.
Jesus spent the majority of his life as a carpenter building tables and chairs, preparing wood, and making measurements. He was familiar with the mundane, and perhaps this is why the Gospels reveal a man who was not bothered by being asked to heal again, teach again, explain who he was again. Rather we encounter an infinitely creative teacher and healer who weaves parables, displays his power through different signs, and heals in ways that are tailored to each individual’s needs.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells seven different parables, all but one of which begin with the kingdom of heaven is like—a mustard seed, yeast for baking, a hidden treasure. Each illustration teaches the same lesson from a new angle so that listeners might hear and understand. When Jesus heals the blind man in Mark 8, he spits into the man’s eyes, puts his hands on them, and, when the healing is incomplete, repeats the laying on of hands. Our creative God sees each healing as an opportunity for his kingdom to come in a new way.
Jesus participates in the repetition of human life so that he might heal our broken relationship with it. Through his patient and consistent love of sinful people, Jesus models for us how to find joy and freedom in the midst of lives that could be monotonous. He is the bread of life eager to nourish when he feeds the 5,000 (Matt. 14), the 4,000 (Matt. 15), or his friends in the upper room (Matt. 26:26). By his Spirit that indwells us today, we too are empowered to approach our work, families, and circumstances with enlivened imaginations.
Though my husband and I grow weary of our daughters’ cries of again, our Father does not. He is not annoyed when we confess the same sins or pray the same prayers. He knows that we are frustrated with spending day after day pent up inside, worrying about finances and health.
After denying Jesus, Peter is not condemned for his faithlessness; he is restored. Jesus asks him “Do you love me?” three times over (John 21:16–17). Repeat, Peter, who do you love? Jesus wants to hear it again, and so does our Father. Even though we have done it before, he wants us to come to him, to delight in his goodness, to cry out for help, and to have our imaginations set ablaze with the hope of the gospel—again and again.
Anne Kerhoulas lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and twin daughters and writes at Daily Discipleship.
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