Desperately Seeking Sameness

Written by Mark Graham
From his column Editor’s Choice

editors-choice-07-19-article.jpgWe tend to prefer that things do not change. There is something comforting about living near long-time neighbors, attending a church with folks we’ve known for a while, having weekly lunches with old friends, hanging on to well-worn sneakers, or knowing our car keys will be in the same place when we wake up in the morning.

Certainly, there’s a place for the serendipity of doing things out of the ordinary, which at my age might be drinking regular coffee instead of decaffeinated, or staying up past 10:30 on a weeknight. But for the most part, we enjoy routines and situations that can be counted on to remain constant. This can be both good and bad.

The good is that as I get older, I’m becoming more forgetful. Locating items often depends on my consistency in placing them in the same place after use. Of course, I’ve never been the most consistent person, so lazily leaving a wrench on the desk in my office instead of taking it back to the garage can cause some annoyance (and tongue biting) next time I need it. But, for most folks, such consistency works.

The bad is that a lack of change can be boring. The same routine day in and day out can drain our psychic and emotional energy. How many persons do you know who have worked at the same place for 10 or 15 years who have lost their spark—the joie de vivre they once had? Of course, this isn’t true for everyone, but for most of us variety is a good thing.

Life Is linear.

The problem for us in our appreciation of sameness is that it never lasts. Life rolls along and everything is hunky dory. The kids are out of the house and not asking for money as frequently as they used to. Your favorite restaurant down the street still serves that great breakfast. The church has to knock out walls to make space for more classrooms. The doctor says your physical indicates you should live 50 more years. And you and your spouse are finally enjoying the rewards of a life well-lived—as much in love as the first day you set eyes on each other.

But then it happens. The reality of life breaks in and things change. Your son’s company downsizes, and he’s looking for work. Your favorite restaurant comes under new management. Your long-time pastor takes another assignment. The doctor notices a spot on your CT scan that looks sketchy. Your spouse runs up the stairs, gasps, and drops to the floor.

Suddenly change rears his gnarly head and life is vastly different than before. The satisfying sameness to which we had grown so accustomed is turned on its head, and we realize life really doesn’t stay the same. We begin to understand that, indeed, it isn’t cyclical, that the same situations and circumstances do not automatically repeat over and over every day like the numbers on a digital watch. Life Is linear. The reality smacks us in the face, the light comes on, and we recognize that life has a beginning and an ending, and everything—from the universe to our bodies—is wearing out and running down.

Change is inevitable and unstoppable. For some it is frightening; for others, a challenge to be embraced. As Christians, we have the assurances of God that He is with us always (Mt. 28:20), His mercy endures forever (Ps. 36), and, that while we live in a world that changes by the minute, He does not.

The writer of Lamentations nails it with these words:

  • But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
  • The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
  • His mercies never come to an end;
  • They are new every morning;
  • Great is Your faithfulness.
  • “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
  • “Therefore I will hope in Him” (Lam. 3:21-24 ESV).

In the light of such faithfulness, we can face the future in hope and without fear, knowing that ultimately, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… we shall be changed.”

Mark Graham is communication resources manager and editor for Pensions and Benefits USA.