Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
A Liturgy for Life
Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. This is the steady rhythm of a pilgrim on the Camino De Santiago. You get up each day and set out to walk 15-20 miles, arrive at your destination, eat, shower, sleep and wake up the next morning to do the same thing over again. Both comfort and boredom can be derived from this routine. On the one hand it is comforting to know exactly what you will be doing each day. It gives your life a certain simplicity that keeps decision-making to a minimum. Walking the Camino can provide the time and space we need to sort things out, pay attention to details we've been too distracted to notice, and reflect upon our values and priorities. This routine, however can also at times feel repetitive and boring. There are moments on the Camino when we can't quite remember why we wanted to do this and would like to just be done with our journey. Craving something new and different, there are times when it feels as if the journey has become dry and less meaningful.
What happens in life when we do the same thing over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month? The lion's share of our time is actually spent on mundane tasks, brushing our teeth, washing dishes, driving to work, etc. We look forward to the mountaintops. Those moments when we take a peek over God's shoulder and glimpse eternity. When our lives seem to culminate into a moment of meaning and purpose. But most of our lives are lived in the ordinary. Small and seemingly insignificant activities fill the spaces between the mountaintops. Are these moments to be avoided or embraced? Can we find God in the ordinary, sometimes dull and repetitive details that fill our lives? Should we seek short-lived solutions like checking our cell phones, pushing away the monotony of certain tasks to pacify the discomfort of the moment?
Routine provides the possibility of drudgery or mastery. The same activity repeated over and over again can feel like a slow and painful death. All is dissolved to gray and life seems to be stuck in the doldrums. Yet repetition can also produce some of the longest lasting and most joyful moments in our lives. Given time and force of habit repetition can produce a virtuoso. The musician who chooses a self-imposed steady rhythm of sameness with the intended goal to ultimately play with a measure of perfection. This larger purpose saturates the ordinary, small, and repetitive tasks with deeper meaning and makes them not only tolerable but desirable.
Jeremiah 6:16 exhorts us to “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Like the liturgies that fill our places of worship each week, routines and repeated tasks can become dry and void of meaning or they can be full of life, connected to something larger. The life God desires for us is one saturated with meaning and purpose. We must practice the habit of what Jesus called "abiding" or remaining in him so continually that the mundane becomes infused with the eternal. Looking for His hand at work in small and familiar things, the ordinary becomes a signpost pointing us to the extraordinary. Gradually we grow familiar with a love that beckons us to consider how we live in the small spaces of our lives. Sameness becomes sacred. If we work toward mastery of this, we will never be far from his presence and, as a result, never far from His love for us. We will find "rest for our souls".