Power in the Familiar

We find comfort and reassurance in the familiar. It doesn’t matter how many times we watch a sunrise, feel the ocean breeze against our face, stroll in the woods or dive into a good book, each time it happens we find ourselves at peace with our little corner of the world. There’s power in the familiar too; no words need to be exchanged when a couple in love walk hand in hand, or when we touch the soft skin of a newborn child, or when we catch the eye of a friend or loved one and exchange a knowing look.

What is it about these “familiar” experiences that never grows old? We may have a daily ritual or a favorite biking route or a regular vacation spot which we return to over and over again. The external trappings, the landscape, the views, the routines; these tend to change very little but something inside us is changing, morphing. We grow and mature. Our tastes and sensibilities change. Priorities shift and change. Perspectives change.

This is why we never tire of being in the presence of a newborn child or tire of watching the sun rise; it’s because the Lord is using these external sense impressions, these fixed moments in time, as “building blocks,” as a way of adding new levels of affection and understanding in us, new states of mind (see Arcana Coelestia 2272, 5804).

This is especially true of the Lord’s Word. We have an affectional tie with the stories of Scripture going all the way back to childhood. This is why we take comfort in the familiar and recite the Lord’s prayer or the 23rd Psalm in times of crisis or need. We automatically recall the Golden Rule, Going the Extra Mile and Turning the Other Cheek when confronted with a challenging situation. Even though we’ve heard or read them many, many times, we find hope and promise in the stories of the Garden of Eden or Noah’s Ark or Daniel in the Lion’s Den. There’s tremendous depth and power in these well-loved stories too: think of the gospel account of the Birth of Jesus Christ, of Easter or the Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Great Red Dragon: even though we know the endings (and in many of our congregations re-enact these sacred stories every year during Christmas, Easter and New Church Day) something deep inside us rejoices at the promise of salvation, at the triumph of good over evil.

When you're feeling anxious, down, or out of sorts don't underestimate the power of the familiar. Go back to those simple pleasures because a hidden gift lies within those seemingly ordinary moments in time.