Several years ago I heard a pastor use the quote, “Doing the same thing over and over again in the same way, and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.” And although I’ve found tracking down its original author to be hopeless, I have found plenty of appropriate times to apply the quotation.
However, upon reflection, I think ‘insanity‘ may be too strong a word. Call it foolishness instead. For instance, I’ve pointed out to piano students that practicing the same phrase over and over in the same way (i.e., without stopping to correct the mistake) and expecting to be able to play it correctly, is foolish.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to suspect that as I get older, doing the same things I’ve always done, in the same way, and expecting the same results, may be a definition of…well, “wishful thinking” anyway.
My brain frequently gives my limbs commands that they can’t (or won’t) follow any more. Getting out of a chair, getting into bed, picking up my granddaughter, even opening a jar of pickles…all require adjustments to the way I used to do them, in order to avoid pain or injury (or worse, embarrassment).
But beyond that, how about common courtesy? I still say hello and smile at people in stores or on the sidewalk. But where once I was almost guaranteed to receive an answering smile and greeting, now I may get a blank stare or a dirty look, especially from anyone under 30.
Once, I expected that people whose job it is to serve–whether I’m in a grocery store, a restaurant, a bank or anywhere else–really cared about giving excellent service. Now I am disappointed all too often by coldness, rudeness, incompetence–or all three. Is there a Triathlon for Lousy Service? I could nominate some worthy participants.
Of course I could go on and on, sounding ever more curmudgeonly: about how times have changed, and how the honest person has been penalized in order to thwart criminals. The examples are myriad:
- the horror of dealing with the TSA in order to fly;
- the futility of so-called gun control laws;
- the need for ever more codes, PINs, security questions, ‘strong’ passwords because of the threat of identity theft;
- the rigamarole involved in buying cold medicine, for Pete’s sake.
No. Life is not the same, and we can’t expect anything to stay the way it used to be.
There was a terrible, surreal moment this past spring when–twice in the same week–someone implied that I was lying to them unless I produced significant documentation to prove my statement. Obviously, one’s word is no longer one’s bond, nor are most of us innocent until proven guilty, as my brother’s post yesterday amply proved.
We know Someone, Who never changes.
“…the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.” (James 1:17, J.B. Phillips N.T.)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)
And we have the promise, from earliest times, that if we stand firm, we cannot be shaken:
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners,
and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.” (Psalm 15, NLT)
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.
Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians 6:10-13, NLT)
And even if the current moral climate is changing rapidly, we can see that human nature has always been depraved unless it was restrained by God and law. The ebb and flow throughout history has been in restraint.
But we as Christians, faithful to our Lord and our calling, can claim this maxim:
The more things change, the more WE stay the same.
We profess the same faith, to the same Lord, as Christians have for 2,000 years. We seek the same fruit of the Spirit, and look forward to the same Hope. This may seem hopelessly reactionary or old-fashioned or backward to the world. But Christ has overcome the world.
And through His power, and by His grace, we will be able to stand firm, spiritually.
Even if we can’t get off the couch without help.