I’m always trying to find a walking route for my exercise walk that maximizes the trail length covered while minimizing any doubling back or going over the same ground again. I have to walk the same couple of parks and neighborhoods most of the time, so I guess I’m trying to avoid boredom.
I guess there are many reasons, good and bad, why we go back to the same ‘places’ in our lives, too. The Church isn’t afraid of boring us with quite a lot of repetition, after all. We have pretty much the same liturgy every Sunday, though with adjustments in the lessons and hymns of the day and some seasonal changes.
But some of the places we return to are a result of making the same warped, sinful choices we make all the time. Late for work again? Because you didn’t get organized the night before. Re-gained the same couple of pounds you lost for the umpteenth time last month? Because you ate that ice cream cone and didn’t go to the gym. Found yourself in a sudden knock-down, drag-out with a family member when they did that irritating thing they always do, and that you knew they were going to do again? Because you didn’t change the things you could change, and accept the things you can’t.
Everybody’s got their (un)favorites.
We need mindfulness, to say nothing of grace, to avoid useless backtracking.
But sometimes circumstances/divine providence may bring us back to a spiritual or emotional ‘place’ we’ve been before. Didn’t we learn enough there the first time? Maybe; but maybe it’s a gift. Maybe revisiting illness, or grief, or simple busy-ness is not always as big a deal as we sometimes make it in our impatience. Maybe sometimes there is just something different or beautiful to see about God. Like being at the same old park bench in different seasons. We come to the same place, but things have changed, and/or we have changed.
We aren’t in control of our itinerary. No matter how I try to sort the Rubik’s cube of my walking route, I can never seem to make it work out perfectly, with no backtracking. God is the one overseeing our pilgrimage, and He knows better than we do just what we need every step of the way. He brings us back to the liturgy each week, and to the rest of life’s daily routines and seasons. And through them.