For some reason, I think every new season will be easier to wrangle my routine into submission than the previous three months. Right now, I’m trying to get back into working out consistently. I had almost a month off the gym when was Covid in the house and then a 50th birthday party for my husband right after. Then it was just laziness and lack of routine. Camping and travel stilted any momentum after that. I’m still trying, but fall has brought several changes, including Spanish Class at BSU. ¡No puedo creer que soy estudiente de nuevo!
When you start or restart exercise, there’s a period of transition from too tired to do anything except the workout, to training and having a normal day. After the first few days, there’s pain or soreness to deal with as well. The adjustment can make the start of all exercise discouraging. After a week or two, my appetite returns to normal, I can climb stairs without torture and my day isn’t shot just because I spent an hour at the gym. OK, maybe it takes more than a month for anyone who needs more than fingers and toes to count their age. But after you settle into a cycle of workout and rest, you can generally count on a fresh supply of energy after each good night of sleep.
I’ve heard that God’s mercies are new every morning because we run out, and require a fresh supply each day. Having need is believable to me because sometimes it feels like love, joy, and hope are finite. And if you get up too early, they drain before the day does.
Another take I heard about that passage in Lamentations is that God’s mercies are new every morning because he wants us to gather daily, like the Israelites gathered manna in Exodus 16. The idea is that God doesn’t want us to rely on yesterday’s faith or experience. He wants the relationship of us seeking provision daily.
I love this concept. OK, truthfully, I like the concept of gathering daily. My hoarding, lazy side might prefer a pantry of faith and a wine cellar of joy to dip into, with occasional shopping or home delivery.
But, I do appreciate the analogy of gathering up from God each day as a reminder that previous experiences are not supposed to carry me through new trials. The memory of his faithfulness encourages, but it isn’t meant to carry you. We get to see his faithfulness again and again. In my own experience, I can think of several instances of answered prayer and still wonder if he’ll come through…this time. So I look for fresh stuff each day.
I think there is a third way to look at “his mercies are new each morning.” Just like other kinds of routines, there’s something about the practice and repetition of spending time with God which make you want it more.
When you fast long enough, you can stop desiring food. If you aren’t in the habit of drinking water, you generally don’t crave it. But when I keep water handy and sip it regularly, I want it more often. When I drink wine every night, I start to expect to drink wine every night. (I know some substances have an added layer because chemical dependence affects you more than just the habit. They become “pleasure based habits.”) It works for things you want as well. When I exercise regularly, I want to exercise regularly. What I contribute my time and energy toward is what I think about and want to do more.
What you foster
I think it’s possible we originally got the expression “don’t feed the flesh” from Romans which says not to make provision for it. Because provision, or when you repeatedly nurture and focus on a thing, can make that thing all consuming. I wonder about people who pray for something daily for a year or more. How does that thing not occupy every waking thought? Just do a denial diet to find out if this is true. My son and I were recently joking that if you decide to cut down on dairy, you’ll find yourself snacking on a block of cheese for the first time ever. Law, meet flesh.
So, coming back to God for new mercies each morning (or whenever you have regular space in your day) creates cycle which makes you desire his company. You need rhythm to create routine. You schedule it, show up, focus on it, and suddenly one day, you remember on your own. You even want it on your own.
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren says we learn to practice by repetition and routine, and this practice includes our bodies, minds and souls. If you are looking for ways to rest and rhythmically connect with God throughout the day, I recommend the book.
Of course, you can go to the gym regularly and if you miss a day, it might be weeks before you remember that you were even trying to create a habit. So don’t be discouraged if you forget to drink form the well of living water more often than not. Plan on two months of discipline to make something automatic in your life. And here’s to “going back for more!”