Monday, July 24, 2006

Seeing God in the Monotony

Not all work is creative. In fact, I would venture that most work we engage in is of the repetitive, monotonous type - interspersed with rare opportunities for creativity. I’m thinking about all the work that gets done everyday – both at home and in business.

It so often seems like many of the chores around our home get done…only to get undone in a matter of days. I find that mowing the lawn could actually be fun, if you didn’t have to do it all over again every Saturday. Doing the laundry, cleaning the home, doing the dishes – all these tasks can have a certain repetitive feel to them.

It’s no easier in the corporate world. Whether we’re flipping burgers, attending meetings or organizing filing systems, many jobs can often feel monotonous to us. How do we approach the monotony of our working lives with a view that is glorifying to God and satisfying to our souls? Is that even possible? It’s relatively easy to understand how we’re reflecting God’s glory in conducting a task that is creative by nature but how do you glorify God when you’re doing the kind of repetitive work that seems devoid of creativity?

The world offers us no help in this regard. Ever notice how the kinds of work that are repetitive and monotonous are not well-regarded in the culture around us? Rewards are aplenty for the "creative class" but menial repetition is for the lesser among us. This is not God's view.

I had been thinking about this for a while (primarily because I dislike repetitive tasks) when I came upon a G.K Chesterton quote by way of John Piper’s book “When I Don't Desire God - How to Fight for Joy”. It offers a hint on a different way of thinking about the monotony we might face in our daily work.

“[Children] often say, “Do it again”; and the grown up person does it again till he is nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps, God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes each daisy separately, but never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G.K. Chesterton

Just pause a second and think about what this might mean to us. God glories in the repetition of the universe we live in. The sun rises in the same way every day and each time it does so, God rejoices in it because it functions in exactly the manner he desires. It'll keep doing so as a reflection of God's faithful rulership until God says "stop". The moon and stars reveal themselves according the a repetitive rhythm to a God who delights in the repetition. This is in no small part what Psalm 19 speaks of:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."

Day after day after day...the heavens testify of God's creative power, his faithfulness and his wisdom.

Yet, for most of us - we remain oblivious this daily testimony. Perhaps G.K Chesterton is right - our inability to see God in our daily monotony has less to do with the nature of the tasks and more to do with the effects of sin that have tainted our childlike joy. We need a new realization that God can, and does take pleasure in seeing us fulfill with faithfulness, seemingly mundane tasks. When we do these tasks joyfully, we exercise order in a world rendered disorderly by sin and we reflect the joyful faithfulness of our Father. This is nothing that can be achieved by natural means - we need God's help here. For when we're faced with the occasion for such tasks, we can turn our gaze Godward and have him enlighten our hearts with a new perspective.

May God graciously grant to us such a Godward perspective.


pam said...

A great blog--this is my first time visiting your site--appreciate the encouragement.

andre said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. Please visit again!


Travis said...

Wow -- that Chesterton quote really got me!

andre said...


I agree - it's beautiful and awe inspiring (in the real sense of the word) to consider that God never tires to do what to us may seem to be repetitious.

WP How said...

I am currently reading Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk where she redeems the routine chore of laundering clothes. Apparently she does more of the same in her next book, Amazing Grace. Actually the monastic practice of attending to God while performing repetitive, manual tasks is recounted by Brother Lawrence in Practicing God's Presence. Repetitive tasks allow the mind to pray a simple prayer of the heart. After all, we are exhorted to 'pray unceasingly'. When I first attempted this after the longest, most monotonous day of work, I realized, at the end of the day, that I had spent the whole day praying.

Every Square Inch said...

Being able to redeem the monotonous tasks (like laundering clothes)is strangely inspiring. It says to me that God reveals himself to us in the midst of what seems like mundane testifies that though invisible, he is present, he is actively engaged with us.

For years, I've heard about Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence but haven't picked it up. Perhaps it's time I do that.

Thanks for commenting - please stop by again.

Greg Schlueter said...

Fabulous. Thank you.