Not counting the steps

Farmville Enterprise July 12, 2017

Preschool and kindergarten teachers understand the importance of repetition in the classroom. Children benefit from a somewhat predictable daily schedule. Structure gives them a sense of stability. Familiar routines and rituals like bedtime stories, family mealtimes or bath time fun plus holiday and birthday traditions actually add to satisfaction in children and adolescents.

When our kids were in elementary and middle grades it was Rocky’s job to drive them to school. At each drop-off he would say, “Study hard. Learn a lot and remember…” Each child then would finish the sentence by saying, “God goes with me.” I had not thought about that in years. The other day our son Samuel told us that he had just described this ritual to his Leaders in Training at Camp Albemarle. They thought it was really neat and started writing the hashtag “godgoeswithus” under some of their Instagram posts.

Isn’t it interesting the things that we remember from our childhoods? (Our kids will never forget that every fortune cookie at every Chinese restaurant before they could read said, “You have the best dad in the whole world.”) I find myself quoting words that we repeated each Sunday during Mass over forty years ago. An example is one portion of the liturgy that said, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, We worship you. We give you thanks. We praise you for your glory.” I am thankful that these words so readily come to mind.

Of course it is good to stray from the routine every now and then. Spontaneity can bring a much-needed breath of fresh air. We do not want to respond by rote in relationships or meaningful activities. Still, the value of repetition should not be underestimated.  Author and theologian C.S. Lewis noted, “As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance.” When we have the truths of God’s Word deeply ingrained in us again and again, they become a natural extension of our thoughts and interactions.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” ( Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

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