Our neighborhood is a quiet one with tree-lined streets, sidewalks, and simple homes. Most children walk to the neighborhood school, and we often see the same people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, and pushing their babies down the street. The street sweeper comes by every other Friday, the sirens from the fire truck can be heard as it barrels by our house leaving the station around the corner, and we live close enough to the water that when the windows are open I can hear the fog horns. We have a great community, we love our church family, and I sometimes run into people I know at the grocery store.
There’s a refreshing familiarity to living in our city and it feels like home.
But it didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I got angry with people who parked their cars on the street in front of our house. I felt discouraged and lonely every time I went to church and most days I had to use a GPS just to get to the grocery store. You know what it’s like when you want to hop in the car and quickly run some errands, but before you know it you’re lost, the store is nowhere in sight and your phone is about to run out of power. Not to mention the feelings of finding yourself in a room of strangers, longing to fit in, but the only courage you can muster is to hide in the bathroom.
There’s certainly a sense of excitement and adventure with any new experience, but it can still feel unsettling and sometimes frightening to be facing unknowns and the challenges that come with them. When we’re living in the midst of newness or change, we begin to long for the familiar.
Our family is living on the edge of what could be some pretty significant change and I find myself inwardly gripping to the known, not wanting to let go because what we have feels really, really good. Life here isn’t perfect, but it sure is comforting, and as much as I appreciate adventure I’d kind of like to stay put.
Last year I decided to train for a half-marathon. I mapped out a 3-mile course in our neighborhood and began by doing a staggered running/walking workout. I needed to find a rhythm of breathing and running, increase my muscle strength, and build endurance. My pace was slow but eventually I could run the entire course without stopping. For months I ran this same path. I learned the cracks and uneven parts of the sidewalk. I saw the beauty of end-of-summer flower beds and then watched as the tree-lined streets changed color, announcing the changing of the season. I knew where the loose dog was and learned that he wouldn’t follow me down the street. I had a plan in mind should someone start chasing me and if I fell and got hurt, I could call my husband and rattle off the name of the street, even in a moment of distress. Taking the same path felt safe and easy.
At some point I knew I would need to add distance to my runs or I wouldn’t be ready for the 13.1 miles that were coming. This would mean a new path with all of its uncertainties. New scenery to admire, but also new cracks, new streets, and being farther away from home. Taking a new path felt scary and uncomfortable.
Life is much the same. You live each day, often doing the same things over and over again. This can grow tiring and some days you long for variety, even if it’s just something other than Monday night spaghetti. But then, something changes and suddenly you’re on a new path. I’ve lived long enough to know that changes are inevitable and with them can come fear, loneliness, and discouragement. When the path before you is foggy and the one behind you is clear, suddenly what felt ordinary and monotonous seems gloriously remarkable. It’s in those times that you need what you learned in the familiar to push you out and through the unknown.
I need the ordinary rhythms of making my bed, doing the laundry, running errands and cooking dinner so that when life gets busy and unpredictable, I’ll have the ability to keep a sense of order and stability in my home.
I need the constant fellowship of family, friends, and others in my life so that when relational struggles come I can work through them, and when new people enter my life I’ll know how to welcome them with open arms.
I need the regular discipline of reading my Bible in order for my mind to be shaped and renewed, day in and day out. Because when trials come–and they will come–I will need a faith that is rooted and grounded in the unchanging nature of God.
On a day-to-day basis the familiar can feel small, unimportant, and boring. But every diaper changed, toilet scrubbed, email sent, paper graded, meal cooked, word written, apology given, verse memorized—all are used to shape and prepare you for whatever lies ahead.
Just as I ran that 3-mile course over and over again, building up strength and endurance, while I walk the familiar path of life today, I build up the strength of my faith and the endurance to live in full dependence upon Jesus. I learn to rely upon the power of the Spirit at work within me for the little things so that when bigger challenges come I will keep clinging to him. By taking the time to notice the beauty before me today, I will be able to discover the wonder of newness and change, even if it feels uncomfortable and scary.
As God builds my confidence in him within everyday moments, I’m seeing the beauty of my ordinary on-repeat life. The familiar path is a gift, a necessity for the journey, and I’m so glad that God is the one who makes the way and lights the path.
New here? Welcome! It’s my desire to encourage and equip what Deuteronomy 4:9 refers to as ‘a diligent soul’. One of the primary ways that I believe we can keep our souls diligently is to read and study the Bible on a daily basis.
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