It occurred to me that repetitive motion conditions can crop up in aspects of our lives beyond just the physical. A large portion of life involves repeated motions in the course of normal work or daily activity. Day in and day out we have to brush our teeth, floss, shave, wash our clothes, clean the house, mow the lawn, prepare meals, wash the dishes, change the oil in the car, pay the bills and so on ad infinitum. Of greater concern though is that many of the larger and more significant tasks and responsibilities in our lives also have a repetitive nature. This time of year many young people are bemoaning the fact that the leisurely pace of summer is over and now they must plug back into the daily routine of school. Get up every day and go to school, go to practices for athletic teams, do your homework, go to bed then get up tomorrow and do it all over again. Those who are out of school and a little older must deal with the repetitive nature of work. Get up every day, go to work, and in so many cases do the same tasks over and over. Much of what we do is at times numbingly repetitive. That’s just how life is. The farmer repeats the same cycles of planting and harvesting year after year, the teacher teaches the same classes year after year, the sales rep services the same accounts and makes the same reports year after year, the pastor must preach the same sermon…no, wait, that’s not right. The point, though, is that the vast majority of us must deal with a large dose of routine and repetitive actions in the course of our daily lives.
How do we avoid repetitive motion damage to our souls? The most important treatment for physical repetitive motion injuries is to stop doing the motion. But we usually don’t have that option in life. We can’t just quit going to school or work. We just can’t drop out, so what can we do? There are no simple cures, but there are some things that we must do to keep our souls fresh. Isaiah 40:31, a familiar verse, tells us “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Run and not grow weary. Get up each day ready to go, strong and full of passion. That comes from putting our hope in the Lord. It means seeing him as the focus and the fulfillment of our lives, not having success, getting more money, getting the promotion or anything else. If we put our hope in him and see our lives as being about serving God, each day is a new one, a brand new chance to bring him glory in a myriad of ways. Each new day is alive with possibility, which means our souls can really live, they can run and not get tired.
A second important scriptural factor in keeping us fully alive is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34. There he said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” One of the things about the “grind” that wears us down is that we look at the years ahead of seemingly unbroken rut and it can feel overwhelming to us. Jesus reminds us not to worry about tomorrow. Today just live today. Don’t fret about the days or years to come, just do what you must do today. That narrow focus can free us from the burden of the despair over years of seemingly endless rut ahead.
Experts in the repetitive motion field tell us that taking breaks is important in order to avoid injury. This is also true of our souls. We need to discipline ourselves to take breaks from the routine. We need to step back and stretch our souls just as the experts recommend stepping back from repetitive actions and stretching. God knew this, which is part of the reason he commanded the people of Israel to stop once a week on the Sabbath and avoid the repeated actions of daily life. We need to do the same. Taking time off to slow down is essential, both in the form of days away from the routine and vacations. We need those times to renew perspective, to give our hearts and minds a chance to think creatively, to restore our souls in their walk with God.