Monotony is a scary thing—something that potentially threatens our parenting, our marriages, and our spiritual lives more than life’s crises.
I knew I was suffering from monotony when my 18-month-old daughter got barfed on by a random kid at Mother’s Day Out. My reaction was weird. I was giggly about it. Eventually I realized I was kind of excited—excited to have a story to tell. (Mother of the Year!) It’s because now all of my days are pretty much the same, and I don’t usually have much to tell. The lack of content is frustrating for someone like me who needs to say 50,000 words a day to stay sane. So I milked that barf story for all it was worth, and it’s pretty good, if I say so myself. Ask me about it sometime.
But some days we aren’t lucky enough to have our daughter barfed on. Some days are just a blur of yes-banana-no-banana-throw-banana and picking up the same toys over and over again until suddenly it’s dark outside and tomorrow’s to-do list is today’s identical twin. It’s the baby who will never NOT need a diaper change, the toddler who wants to read the same book over and over again. It’s having a friend ask, “How was your day?” and realizing you have nothing at all to report unless your friend happens to be interested in your children’s bowel movements or cute new trick. (Some friends are, thank goodness.) Sometimes monotony feels a lot like a lack of purpose, a lack of worth, a lot like that Greek myth of the guy who keeps rolling the giant stone up a mountain over and over again for all eternity.
But monotony is not just a stay-at-home-mom thing. It shows up everywhere. Often it’s a marriage thing. It’s the snatched conversations of calendars and trash day and I-thought-you-fed-the-dog. The huff over yet another sink full of dishes, inviting a silent contest of who’s the most tired (but it’s not really a contest if no one wins). It’s the absence of newness, of romance, of the whirlwind. And eventually the absence starts to feel pretty heavy. It makes it harder to pay the bills and harder to make up the bed and makes the pile of laundry seem a lot bigger than it actually is. It makes the baby’s cry pierce and the dog’s bark boom. And in relationships, carrying around heavy stuff doesn’t produce muscle, it produces resentment. Resentment is a silent boil, a monster with gritted teeth who sits right there in the living room, between two people who pledged to love each other even when they don’t feel like it. But that was easy to say twenty pounds ago in a white dress in front of a crowd of smiling supporters. It’s a bit harder to care on yet another inconsequential Thursday night on the couch with unwashed hair and hands fused to an iPhone.
Sometimes monotony settles dangerously deep into our hearts. It’s regurgitating old wisdom to a friend in need because we don’t have any fresh insight to offer. It’s mentally making lunch plans while singing “All my hope is in You, God” and “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” “How deep the Father’s love for us/How vast beyond all measure” is a beautiful melody but not much else. How could it be, when we’ve heard it a million times? Jesus asked us to drink his blood and eat his body in remembrance of murder, the death he endured on our behalf, but the request no longer jolts us. We’ve settled into the tradition of juice, a cracker, and a quick prayer. Monotony makes us forget that “Power in the Blood” refers to actual blood that was actually spilled by someone who suffered that we might LIVE.
Oh hear this, dear one—on a regular peanut-butter-and-jelly-for-lunch Tuesday, on a how-long-have-I-been-watching-Netflix Thursday—hear this with fresh ears:
He is making all things NEW (Revelation 21:5).
He called us out of oppressive darkness in his marvelous LIGHT (1 Peter 2:9).
He endured the unimaginable that we might LIVE (John 10:10).
Monotony does not have to win. Our hearts do not have to beat in rhythm to life’s humdrum. They can beat wildly because our God is in the business of NEWNESS and LIGHT and LIFE. He gives meaning to the menial, breathes life into monotony.
How grateful I am for a God who believes in joy. A God who believes we matter:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you." Psalm 139:1-18
(A passage God laid on my heart when I was anxious about and in labor with my son, Greer, a time when I couldn’t forget how much I needed Him. The parts in bold are the parts that always made me cry. Guess it’s a good move to try to remember what He pointed out when I couldn’t forget Him.)