Celebrating the Repetitive and Mundane

Today is my first day back in the office since last Wednesday. I had five days of holiday bliss, not counting my Sunday morning preaching at E91 (which was blissful in its own way).


I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it difficult to “jump back in” after a few days away from work. The thrill of adventure is replaced with the mundane of meetings, schedules, and routines. The older I get the more I realize that what I crave is novelty and excitement more than the normal rhythm of the day-to-day. 


And I am not alone. 


According to a fascinating (and disturbing) study conducted by the University of Virginia, given the choice, study participants preferred undergoing electric shock to sitting alone with their thoughts.


The study exposed the participants to a mild shock, which they all reported they didn’t like and would pay money not to undergo again. But when left alone in an empty room with a “shocker” button for up to fifteen minutes, removed from all distractions, unable to check their phones or listen to music, two-thirds of men and one-fourth of women in the study chose to voluntarily shock themselves rather than sit in silence.  


Dr. Tim Wilson, who helped conduct the study, said, “I think this could be why, for many of us, external activities are so appealing, even at the level of the ubiquitous cell phone that so many of us keep consulting. . . . The mind is so prone to want to engage with the world, it will take any opportunity to do so” (Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, 33).


Whether we want to admit it or not, we are shaped by our practices—our daily routines, habits, and rituals. These habits and practices shape our loves, desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship. 


Tish Warren writes, “We have everyday habits—formative practices—that constitute daily liturgies. By reaching for my smartphone [first thing] every morning, I had developed a ritual that trained me toward a certain end: entertainment and stimulation via technology. Regardless of my professed worldview or particular Christian subculture, my unexamined daily habit was shaping me into a worshiper of glowing screens” (ibid., 31).


Simply put, our hearts and lives are shaped by the repetition of our routines. I need to remember that when I’m sitting at my desk responding to emails. Our addiction to stimulation, input, and entertainment numbs us to the ordinary wonders of life. 


A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” As we deepen our lives, and not just widen them, we discover that we can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. 


I’m learning that I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff in order to get to the thrill of an adventurous faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—“the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows” (ibid., 36).


Let’s celebrate the repetitive and mundane and learn that the seeds planted in the soil of the ordinary can lead to extraordinary transformation in becoming more like Jesus.