Repetition versus newness. I pondered the benefits of each. It’s good to stretch ourselves, to try new things. We need to get out of our comfort zones in order to grow. It’s how we learn. But we can get stuck in the newness. We can become driven by the novelty, and it can distract us from going deeper. Newness might give us breadth, but repetition gives us depth. Repetition invites us to develop and improve and be disciplined. But we can get stuck in repetition. We can get comfortable to the degree we don’t want to do anything different than we have known.
I bought a book for my oldest granddaughter to help her learn a skill, but when I received it, I realized there were only a few of the early pages that are currently at her level. Not a problem. She can repeat them multiple times, and she won’t mind at all. It’s similar to the books she asks to read again and again. They are familiar. Because she’s curious, she learns more with each reading, and she also finds comfort in the familiarity. And every book that is now familiar was at one point new. Each of us can (hopefully) tell of similar experiences. We struggled with something that was new, but now we do it as common routine.
We might not appreciate the familiarity, because it goes unnoticed. We could benefit from the reminder of the process that took us from the unfamiliar to familiar. We might overlook the familiar, because we find it boring. We want more: “I’ve already done that. We’ve already been there. That’s too much like _____. Can’t we try something more exciting? I just want a challenge!” Our sense of adventure can definitely benefit us. We expand our perspectives and experiences. We allow challenges to grow us. But if the point is to always find something new and different, we might be seeking a distraction that pulls us away from growth. Having a long list of what we’re done doesn’t particularly grow us. Again, it might give us breadth without depth. It can generate excitement that is short-lived and shallow.
When I consider the opposite of “stuck,” I think of boldness and courage. Commitment to do the same thing repeatedly but determine to learn and grow within the familiarity requires boldness and courage. Commitment to stepping forward to take risks and learn new skills and interact with new people requires boldness and courage. It’s not the thing we’re actually doing that determines if we’re stuck in repetition or newness. We can be stuck in either. And we can be bold and courageous in either. Sometimes we change our approach to something; we change the plan and experience. We go “there.” Other times, we change our attitude in our “here.” I’ve learned this from God and the many examples of people who have followed him well.
There are situations we can find where God moved on from something when, in our opinion, it looked undone. We can find situations in which God stayed put longer than we would have the patience to endure. We can also take either of those situations and affirm where we prefer to be. We want to stay put a little longer? Let’s call it “waiting on God.” We want to be adventures and leave something behind? Let’s call it “shaking off the dust.” Either way, we think we’re wise; and perhaps we are. After all, God gives us both examples and instructions at times, but we need to ask, “Is this one of those times?”
I can’t answer that one for you. I struggle to answer it for myself at times. I don’t know that God needs to give us a clear answer every time. And that’s okay—as long as we’re taking that next tentative or bold step forward or commitment to stay with him. I’ve learned one of the best ways I can keep myself in check (or, actually, invite God to keep me in check) is to take the next step or pause by saying, “Let’s….” Of course, let’s is a contraction for let us, and us is the key component of the phrase in this case. Us indicates a relationship between me and God. It commits to doing the next thing with God. If I can’t declare let’s, I might need to check whether or not I’m trying to do the next thing on my own. Whether the context is repetition or newness, I want to stay familiar with God.