Forgive us this day, our daily grind

The daily grind. Sounds like the name of a periodical column. Either that or a good name for a coffeehouse (if anyone is interested in using the name for either one, come talk to me). Otherwise, we know it as the daily routine that we find ourselves in, day in and day out. I know it as a student, and I imagine it doesn’t change much for those who have a job, and those who are raising a family.

Fundamentally, there is nothing “wrong” per se with having a daily routine, or at least as far as I can discern. Our “daily grind” is built around structure. Personally, I like structure. Structure provides clarity and safety. Besides, we are creatures of habit, aren’t we? For the Aristotelian, habits form our virtues as well as our vices. So some of our habits help form good “routines”. Others form not-so-good ones (i.e. vice). Regardless, virtuous habits are still deliberately chosen, and not just something we happen upon by accident, or because we were merely “born this way” (regardless of what Lady Ga-Ga has informed us).

As I alluded to earlier, I tend to use routines as a way to escape the mundane or avoid over-exerting myself in a usual task. The mundane is a fundamental trait of the daily grind- that in which nothing very “exciting” happens.

-“How was your day today?”      -“Same ol’ same ol’”  or   -“What’s up?” -“Nothing much” 

The mundane makes up a majority of our lives. It’s personified in the 9-5 job, or the 40-hour work week, and especially in the cyclical, 7-day week (Monday’s suck, Wednesday is “Hump day”, and Thank-God-It’s-Friday…repeat). Millenials (a.k.a. my generation) hate this monotony. We have witnessed parents and co-workers trudge along, day-in and day-out and we are repulsed. Some recognize the daily drudgery later on in life and experience the notorious mid-life crisis. The appropriate counter-action is to then act like one was young and “alive” again- usually resulting in doing something that is incongruent for one’s age. “This week, I’m going skydiving. Next week, I’m hiking across the Alps.” Anything to break the vicious cycle.

But my question is what are we running from? Are we afraid that our lives have or will become boring and our quality of life will suffer?  Or are we fearful that we’ve lost the sense of who we are- what it means to be us? I think both are closely related and not completely unfounded fears! We should have a longing for adventure and not lose our child-like awe for the breathtaking. But I would argue that we can also find this within our daily lives…

I find that I most often fall into the trap of condemning the daily grind when I wrongly conclude that the present has nothing “extravagant” to offer. “If I could just make it through this week…” In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis reminds us that “Gratitude looks to the Past and Love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead….For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” I’ve always hated the saying, “it’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination.” Actually, it’s both. Means and ends are equally important. What I’m doing today matters. Saying “Hello” to the passerby on the street matters. Going to my Monday morning Accounting class matters. Repeating 10 “Hail Marys…” before and after an “Our Father…” and “Glory Be…” matter. But they all matter not because of what we can do on our own accord, but what can be accomplished through God’s life within us. “Grace perfects nature,” and our daily grind is transformed by the life of Christ within us.

The Jesuits have a motto, AMDG (In Latin, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, translated “for the greater glory of God”), and the Benedictines have a similar one- UIOGD (Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei, translated “so that in all things God may be glorified”). These mottos need not only apply to our biggest joys and sorrows, but also to our daily, minute tasks. I challenge myself and all those who read this post today to embrace our daily grinds’ by offering them up for the greater glory of God. Take a minute to step back every day and ask yourself “what am I doing here?” or “what should I be doing here?” Every moment is a gift, and we will have to account for how we used our “talents” on the day of our judgment. So treat it and all those who we interact with this day as worthy of our greatest consideration.

“Meanwhile, the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a (Wednesday) morning…”