The first months after I began to practice family medicine were crazy. Besides trying to set up our home and help our kids adjust to their new school, my work was super-intense from day one. Mornings started for me at 4:15 AM, and I often didn’t finish evening rounds and charting until nearly midnight. While the pace eventually slowed, one result of the overload was that it took longer to meet my neighbors. I finally got to know the people who lived near me, but we still mostly stayed to ourselves.
Several years later, circumstances brought three new families into the homes across the street from us, all within a few months of each other. I decided this was an opportunity for us to change how we interacted in the neighborhood.
My wife and I went over to meet and welcome each of the new neighbors soon after they arrived. We continued to make efforts to connect with them. Our new friends caught the spirit, and they began to reach out to one other and to other people in the neighborhood. My wife and I then hosted a welcome barbecue and invited everyone on the street.
During the pitch-in, one of the new neighbors shared something with me I’ll never forget. He said that he always wanted to live in a neighborhood like this, where people were so friendly. Knowing our history, I had to chuckle to myself.
Ruts in the Road
Before paved highways, wagon wheels rolling over dirt roads would leave huge ruts. Once you have a rut, it’s pretty hard to keep from falling back into it. Life is often the same way.
We fall into behavior patterns that are hard to break. Groups, including church communities, do the same thing.
Living with routines is not necessarily bad. Our habits make life more efficient and help us get things done. If we had to think about everything we did, we’d never get anywhere. But we shouldn’t be ruled by our routines or the way other people behave. Otherwise, life would become dull, lifeless, and purposeless. It would just be the same-old, same-old.
So if we’re in a rut, what can we do about it?
Options #1:Keep doing things the same.
Some people will decide that ruts aren’t so bad, after all. It’s secure knowing they’ve got their little trench to hole up in where it’s safe and predictable. These people have decided that a bland existence is preferable to a risky one of uncomfortable change.
Option #2: Leave for something better.
Sometimes leaving IS the right thing to do. The situation we’re living in could be hazardous. Or we need to move to find work to support ourselves and our family.
But the new circumstances can’t always produce the results we want. People are mostly the same wherever you go. They fall into ruts and so do we.
Hollywood likes to romanticize the free spirit who lives life his way. What we don’t see is how things would be for that person ten years later. Would living the same way still look as glamorous? Besides, if you kept changing all the time, how well does that work for relationships and raising a family? There’s something to be said for stability.
Option #3: Stay where you are, but do things differently.
We have two ways we can do this.
The first is to live for ourselves. But we were made for God, and our hearts are restless for Him. Self-centered living turns out to be a dead end that leaves us unhappy, unfulfilled, and further wounds our soul.
So, instead, I recommend taking the second option: To live for Christ!
Bloom Where You’re Planted
So what should we do?
Serve God in the circumstances in which He places you.
When I was young, I would tell myself that things would be better if I were somewhere else or in a different situation. I thought the grass was greener on the other side.
Make a difference where you are, and do it today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. If people aren’t friendly, then YOU be friendly. If no one seems to care, then YOU care.
If you think you need to leave your present situation, let charity be your guide.
If you’re living in a situation where you’re abused or the health of your family is threatened, then don’t stay, because it would be an offense against charity.
Periodically change things up.
Habits are not bad, but we don’t live by routines alone. From time to time, change the pattern, and do things differently.
Don’t do something only because you’re supposed to do it. Obeying laws and treating people kindly when you don’t feel like it are still good ideas. But instead of living life passively, decide to follow Christ with your whole heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Then live the rest of your life that way.
Face the difficulties in life heroically.
St. Francis de Sales tells us that God allows us to face difficulties in life so we could have the opportunity for a heroic response. Look at temptations and trials as opportunities for spiritual valor. When they arise, let Jesus use us to bring light into the darkness.