by Alexa Hess
Our lives are marked by seasons. Sweet spring turns into sweltering summer. Crisp fall turns into chilly winter. We tend to mark the events in our lives in terms of seasons as well. The abundance of weddings at a particular time of the year is referred to as “wedding season.” The lonely single is encouraged by a well-meaning friend that they are just “in a season of singleness.”
We speak about seasons with the assumption that they will come to an end eventually. When the heat of summer is too much to bear, we remind ourselves that fall will come soon. When the cold of winter leaves us chilled to the bone, we remind ourselves that spring is just around the corner. However, the issue is when we feel as if the season in life in which we are living is not changing, that everything remains the same and will continue to remain the same.
C.S. Lewis wrote about this idea in his book, The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters is a work of fiction in which an elder demon, Screwtape, is teaching a novice demon, Wormwood, how to discourage Christians and hopefully (and always unsuccessfully) draw them away from God. In one section, Screwtape writes to Wormwood that “the horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart.” Screwtape implores Wormwood to cause the Christian he is trying to control to fear the mundane and place the constant need for change in him. To do this, he says to substitute the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ with the emotional adjective’ stagnant.’
The switch from “unchanged” to “stagnant” seems minuscule, but it’s actually pretty massive. Think about the word “stagnant.” There is a certain weightiness to the word that “unchanged” doesn’t possess. And that’s exactly why Screwtape says to make things seem this way to humans. The key is to make humans believe they are in a situation or season so immovable that it creates a sense of hopelessness that only change can cure. The need for change is what the enemy uses to trick us into constantly moving instead of remaining still. That’s why feeling stagnant seems so repulsive. We live in a world where the need to move forward is idolized, and remaining the same is frowned upon. As a result, we can feel bitterness or shame toward seasons of the same old thing.
However, Screwtape goes on to reluctantly recognize how the Lord uses seasons purposefully in the life of the believer:
“But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual ear; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.”
God created the four seasons to give our lives order and establish a purposeful rhythm for all of creation to thrive. But He also gave us changing seasons to delight in. We delight in spring because of the blooming flowers and fresh air, so it feels new and exciting even when that season comes around again. God does the same with the seasons of our lives as well. This is why it feels exciting when a fast season slows down or when a slow season changes. This union of change and permanence, this life of rhythm, is a gift from God. Rhythm allows us to see time as valuable and to not rely on change as our ultimate means for purpose and fulfillment.
Embracing the “Same Old Thing” is a matter of perspective. If your circumstances are unchanging, that doesn’t mean you’re stagnant. The Christian life is not a life of stagnancy but of continual growth. By His grace, God daily sanctifies us to grow us into the image of His Son, and He uses both seasons of change and permanence to do so. Also, unchanging doesn’t mean unfruitful. To find yourself in the “Same Old Thing” doesn’t mean that you are not doing purposeful work. God uses our seemingly insignificant moments for His significant purposes. Even if it seems monotonous, what we do in the present is purposeful because God works in and through all things. Therefore, even seasons of the “Same Old Thing” can be seen as opportunities to embrace what God is doing. We can rejoice over the pieces God is placing together even if we can’t see the bigger picture yet.
Embracing the “Same Old Thing” also involves learning to be present. Instead of itching for the next thing, we can remain present by joyfully embracing what God has for us in the here and now. Because God uses every moment purposefully, we can rejoice in our work. We can go about our routine with joy, knowing that there is meaning in the seemingly mundane. As believers, there is work to be done for the kingdom in seasons of change and in seasons of permanence. Sometimes this may look like working a 9-5 day of the same job or the daily routine of nursing a child. There is no “going through the motions” if we allow every motion to be used unto the glory of God.
Life will have its regular rhythms, the seemingly mundane, the “Same Old Thing,” but it is what we do with that time that matters. Let us not see change as the only means for our spiritual growth. Let us not rush to the next thing that we miss the purposeful moment of the here and now. Let us see the “Same Old Thing” for what it truly is—a gift of grace.