Start the new year with a prayer
" ... use not vain repetitions ..."
-- Matthew 6:7 (KJV)
How many new years have you encountered? I recall being a child filled with the anticipation and excitement of another repetitious new year. As time flies, counting this one, I have gone through sixty-some New Year starts, with their repetitious cycle of flipping over the calendar page and embracing a fresh new beginning.
As I pondered this cycle and prayed about what to write this week, I thought about the routine of repetition.
Several years ago, I noticed Jesus mentioned in the Bible not to heap up vain repetitions. It made me ponder if repetition was bad.
Then I realized like most things, repetition can be a contradiction because it has two sides. It can serve the purpose of good or evil (vain), depending how we use it or look at it. We can view our repetitious tasks as productive and meaningful, or mundane and boring.
The amazing side of repetition is that it's one of God's universal laws of life. Like gravity or oxygen, we can't exist without it. Everything we learn in life comes through our repeating it over and over. We learn to walk from a series of making the same movements over and over. And as we advance into our school years, we discover repetition is the way we study, learn and get proficient. So it can't be all that bad.
Knowing this, I believe Jesus wasn't saying our repetition was bad, rather he was pointing out when we do it without meaning behind it or our heart isn't in it, we have to be careful, for it can lead from joy to repetitious, meaningless boredom.
Research teams at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin and the University of California have done studies on mindfulness: This is about bringing our awareness to activities in the present moment. Which I believe is purposeful repetition. Researchers noted when we do this it reveals more positive brain wave activity, showing it makes us more peaceful and joyful. Knowing Jesus is a lot about joy and peace, I believe it's why he instructed us to do things from our hearts, not just our heads.
Understanding the cycle of repetition and the purpose it can serve can help us change our attitudes from vain and boring to meaningful. Even in the midst of a mundane daily task, like many in our homes or jobs, we can look at the purpose the task serves and the outcome it brings, taking it from a mindless repetitious task to something with purpose. Even if we have to tell ourselves we are serving others as God intended us to.
As the saying goes, we are creatures of habit. And sometimes in the mundanity of daily life, repetition can get a bad name. Mostly because it can imprison us by locking us into our comfort zones. But if we remember any new habit begins and maintains with it, we can practice more mindfulness in our repetitious tasks, and make achieving those New Year's resolutions a bit more tolerable.
• Annettee Budzban is a Christian author, speaker, life coach and nurse. She is available to speak at your church or group, or coach you individually. Contact her for info or to register for her Writing for Fun and Profit conference coming in February. She can be contacted at (847) 543-8413 or Annetteebudzban@aol.com.