As Christians, we are peculiar because of our practices. We tend to do certain things as we walk through life. We pray. We attend church. We sing. We forgive. We rest. We serve. We read. It is not that we do these things only once in our lives. Aside from our baptisms, which we (mostly) do only once in our lives, these practices are repetitive. Over and over again, we do them. Even when we wonder why we do them, we find ourselves still doing them again. And then again. And then again.
Sometimes these practices feel empty and even ritualistic. And we stop and we wonder why we do them. Are we slaves to these practices? Wouldn’t it be liberating to walk right past the Bible on my kitchen table in the morning, instead of sitting down to read yet another chapter in Genesis? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to sleep in on Sunday instead of gathering myself to venture out into the snow to attend church?
But then we remember that these practices, which are so monotonous so often, are bigger than we can imagine. When we practice these things, we are proclaiming something about ourselves – if only to ourselves. We are proclaiming again – and again and again – that this is who we are. We are Christ-followers. We are children of God. We are blessed for eternal life. We’ve been chosen.
We also are proclaiming something to those who might be watching us. A good friend brought his grandson to our church gathering recently. Church gatherings are simply something that Christians attend. And my good friend was demonstrating to his grandson this fact. In the practice of church attendance is the reality that we are part of the family of God. And as we take our children and our grandchildren to church gatherings, we are doing our part – small though it may seem – of passing on the promises of God to them. It’s what makes recent church trends so sad.
Isaac doesn’t make a big splash in Scripture. He doesn’t provide us with a particularly striking picture of a man of the faith. Most of his story in Genesis is connected to Abraham who came before him or to Jacob who came after him. Isaac seems almost like a placeholder for the promises. He simply kept the wheel turning, moving from one generation to the next. And his generation didn’t seem all that exciting.
And perhaps this is what we ought to be learning from Isaac. His life may have lacked excitement. But in that boring life were the promises of God. Isaac passed the promises from Abraham to Jacob. He kept the stream of generations of God’s people moving forward. Just as we keep the stream of faith moving forward in our own lives and in the life of our families by our seemingly monotonous practices, Isaac kept pushing the faith forward.
Isaac had his practices, too. He dug wells. These weren’t even new wells. These wells were Abraham’s wells. And Isaac’s chief activity for a season in life was to re-dig those wells. He was to go back again and open them back up. They were like well-read chapters of the Bible, that we find ourselves reading again and again. They were like the same sermon points that keep popping up over and over again.
Isaac kept re-digging the old wells. It wasn’t easy, of course (Genesis 26:17-22). We do find opposition as we attempt to carry on the faith and to pass on the promises. There are times it is difficult to keep going – to keep praying, to keep reading, to keep serving, to keep forgiving.
But sometimes, this is the only task God has for us at the moment. Just keep praying. Just keep attending church. Just keep singing. Just keep forgiving. Just keep taking time to rest in Christ. Just keep serving. Just keep reading. It may feel boring. It may be frustrating. We may wonder at the value of it. We keep going back and retreading old ground, again and again.
But as we do – deep in our subconscious, if nothing else – we are proclaiming the promise of God to ourselves again. We are recalling who we are in Christ. Quite frankly, whether we see it or not, we are growing. And we are passing that identity and those promises on to the next generation in the faith. Our kids and our grandkids and our unbelieving friends and neighbors are watching. So we keep re-digging those old wells.