Tish Harrison Warren:
I have had to learn to think about repentance differently. I think the term “repentance” can be thought of as this really dramatic event, like an altar call, you repent once and then your life is supposed to be different from then on. I’ve come to see repentance and faith as breathing out and breathing in…or your left foot and right foot. We’re constantly walking in repentance and constantly walking in faith. I need to understand repentance and faith not as things that happen to us in dramatic moments but as the daily rhythm of life. Kathleen Norris makes the connection in her book The Quotidian Mysteries between repetitive practices in liturgy and repetitive practices in things like laundry — repetitive practices in daily life.
There seem to be two different struggles that we have with repetition. One is for those folks like me that really crave novelty and new experiences. Having to do something every day — like make the bed every day when you know that it’s going to be unmade again — is really discouraging. Some of it is personality. I need ritual and routine so badly, but I reject it at the same time. To some extent, repetition is completely impossible to avoid. We just are — neuroscience is showing this more and more — people that live in patterns. It’s not the patterns themselves that are the enemy. It’s what those patterns are doing to us. Are we entering into patterns that are diminishing us?
Can we enter our daily lives and the work we have to do in a way that doesn’t diminish us but teaches us the beauty of repetition or teaches us how to serve people? Americans in general love novelty, but novelty exhausts us. We cannot base our faith on it. Repetitive practices are what we actually need to sustain the marathon of our life…I’ve come to see repetition as completely unavoidable…I’ve just gotten to the point where I think this is how humans are made. We will be unhealthy people if we try to reject all repetition. We need to think well about how this repetition is forming us and what kinds of people it’s making us.