03.14.23 | Discipleship | by Eric Mullinax


    I was rather spent as I stepped on the plane returning from my mother-in-law’s memorial service in Florida. Before I even found my seat, I was hoping for an uninterrupted nap. Of course, as is usually the case in situations like these, when one is intent on being anti-social and insistent on having earned the right to be so, I found myself seated by an animated, first-time traveler. The young woman had been a child as she watched the events of September 11, 2001, unfold and had determined then never to travel by airplane... that is, until today, when family events presented a need to break her own rule. She was anxious, excited, and inquisitive all at once. She also noticed things I’m certain I have never noticed in my travel experience - commenting with elation, curiosity, or confusion on every single one of them.  Her excitement eventually became refreshing to me. By the time we landed, I not only had a new friend but was awakened to things I had failed to see around me. 

    Repetition has a way of lulling us to sleep; monotony a way of robbing us of sight, or else leaving us disinterested. Real-life examples are readily available. How many news stories do we hear about violence, suffering, racial oppression, or injustice, before we fail to hear them at all? For that matter, how many stories about something small but positive do we take in before we respond in boredom? How many times do we sit on an airplane or see the bird outside our window before the marvel of flight goes without notice? Like most adults, we learn to tolerate the repetition by operating on autopilot. 

    Yet I am certain, even among the most skilled of autopilots, there was a time when we found ourselves delighting in the routine like every child - longing for another minute with grandpa, another page of the story, another trip down the slide. The incongruity is unmistakable. How can our failure to see be blamed on monotony or unconscious living in the repetitive, when at one point monotony and repetition were invigorating? Blindness can easily be blamed on the world around us - there is a sensory overload - but perhaps this is too easy an answer. Perhaps the scales on our eyes are thickened not by the many repetitions in life but by our failure to see life in the many repetitions. 

    Jesus spoke of the Kingdom as belonging to the likes of little children, and many have speculated on a child’s ability to see the world with wonder as one of the reasons for that. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy, the child’s cry for more could be a quality of the very God who created them. Doesn’t the Lord command the sun every day and the moon every night, “Do it again”? 

    For the child on the slide or the toddler with a story, “Do it again!” is far from a cry of boredom or routine, but it is a cry for more of life itself. This is like the joy of the psalmist, the cry of the prophets, and the call of Christ: “Consider the lilies, how they grow…if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field…how much more will he clothe you?” (Luke 12.27-28). Jesus asks us to consider the Kingdom around us like little children, and thus, something more like God. We will find a Presence in faithful recurrences, grace in repetition, and rumors of another world in the ordinary world around us. Here, even those within the most taxing of life’s repetitions - the daily care of an aging parent, the constant burden on the shoulders of those who fight against injustice, and the labor of hope in a difficult place - can find solace. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” said Jeremiah amid deep lament. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him'” (Lamentations 3.21-24, emphasis mine).

    Morning by morning, the daily liturgy of new mercies comes with unapologetic repetition to all who will see it, the gift of a God who revels in the creation of yet another sunrise, the encore of another starry night, and the discovery of even one lost soul.

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