My dad was ahead of his time. Before remotes were even invented he had one—me. To keep from getting up out of his recliner, whenever the channel needed changing, he’d yell out for me to come in there and turn the knob for him. I’d then have to wait to make sure the sound was suitable before I could go on back into my room and resume what I was doing. It was a menial task but at least we had those few seconds of interaction.
Menial tasks have never bothered me. It’s repetition that I really don’t like. I tried to work at a turkey packing plant stuffing dead turkeys into plastic bags. I made it a whole hour until I walked off the job. It was either that or get in one of those bags myself. My mind got overwhelmed with the sameness of this unending process.
Routine is okay. I shower the same way each morning that I have since I started taking showers: left arm first, right leg last, face, hair and I’m done. I comb my hair the same way I have all my life. I get dressed the same way. Routine is okay. Without routine I’d probably forget something important.
The difference between routine and repetition is: even with routine there is variation. I might change soap or shampoo; I might shave before I get dressed or after; I get to select from a whole rack of clothes. With repetition, I must repeat the same actions each time, expecting the same results.
I can eat the same cereal for several weeks but eventually I’ll hit the wall. Not another bite. I have to change. I can drive the same way to work each day for a month but then I have to find a new route. I need a change.
Some folks resist change. I look for it. I need to see what I haven’t seen before, to notice stuff I’ve missed, to take in something fresh. I need variety. Fortunately, it’s there. I just have to force my mind to engage it. To look for something different.
When I used to run a printing press, the mundane drone of the wheels turning and paper slapping into the tray would become the syncopation for some song. My eyes would watch the process but my mind became an I-pod. I’d see how many songs fit the pattern of the rhythm. It helped me survive the repetition of the job.
Our Christian disciplines can become repetition—mindless, meaningless actions. Or they can become routine. Routine helps me not forget things that are important. I don’t want to read my Bible just to get it done. I don’t want to pray just to ease my guilt. I don’t want to worship just to know I’ve been there and done that. I want to connect with the God who loves me. So, I must protect that time with Him from becoming repetition. After all, who wants assembly line faith? Faith is too big to stuff into a bag and call it good.