Ask any saint: Ruts are underrated

5 mins read
St. Francis of Assisi, The Holy Family, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. CNS, Shutterstock photos

Take heart — and a second look — if it seems your life is stuck in a rut.

Look at it as God does. It could be you’re exactly where he wants you to be and doing exactly what he wants you to do. Again and again.

But … how’s that possible? The sometimes crushing monotony of the same old, same old. Each day nearly identical to the one before it and the one to come.

The truth is you can feel like you’re just slogging along while the reality is each step, each repetition, each day is a prayer of action. A very pleasing prayer to the one who gives you those days, talents and opportunities, who offers you that repetition.

Take it from a wide variety of saints: Ruts are underrated. They get a bum rap. Have a bad rep. And sometimes, deserve neither.

“Sometimes”? That’s right. Like Glinda explaining to the recently landed Dorothy that there are good witches and bad witches, so too with good ruts and bad ruts.

And complicating this even more, you can be in a good rut and a bad rut at the same time. In good ruts (plural) and bad ruts (plural) at the same time.

For example, you eat healthy wholesome meals … but never get any physical activity. (You know. The dreaded E-word. Exercise.)

Or you never miss Sunday Mass … but are, well, pretty lax when it comes to daily prayer. And so on.

Don’t beat yourself up. We all do this. Or don’t do that. Regular as clockwork. Regular as a rut.

That said, here are a few points to consider.

Saints’ lives and ruts

Check out the life story of many, many saints, and you’ll see ruts. Sure, other words or phrases — nicer words or phrases — are used more often, or almost all the time.

“He found his way.” “She chose her path.” Discovering a track designed by the will of God and nudged into it by the Holy Spirit, they persevered. They were single-minded. And day after day, year after year, they put up with all the boredom and drudgery (or ennui if you want a classier term or are a crossword puzzle fan). They put up with what makes a rut a rut.

Take, for example, St. Francis of Assisi, a rich man’s gadabout son. He jumps from the ruts of dining, dancing, romancing and hanging out with his buddies into a rut of poverty, chastity and service to the poor.


Or consider St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Katharine Drexel and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Day after day of working with the poor, traveling, fundraising and establishing all types of institutions to help those in need. Not to mention each starting her own order.

Yes, from the outside looking in, it seems pretty exciting and maybe even glamorous for those three. (Glamorous in a “nun” kind of way.) But, most likely, from the inside looking out — that is, living it — there must have been a lot of repetitive daily grind getting all that done.

In other words, a famous rut or a holy rut is still a rut.

Daily ruts

Sure, that’s all well and good for them, but what about the rest of us? What about you? What can you do with your own ruts?

Maybe it’s time to double down on your examination of conscience. (Yes, that sounds like a bad idea. That sounds like trouble.) How about not just reviewing what you’re doing wrong but taking a look at what you are doing right?

At times, for many of us, those good ruts, habits, virtues don’t seem “to count.”

Such as: Always being cordial to co-workers. (Really? My gosh, maybe you are a saint.) Or always taking the time to visit with a family member, friend or neighbor who’s lonely or hurting.

OK, let’s identify some ruts that don’t have a golden glow to them. How about this? Always doing the family’s laundry. Every day, every member has clean clothes available. As if by magic! No. By that rut of service, you’re in.

And it’s the same with fixing meals. No, before that, with buying groceries. No, before that, with going to work to make the money to buy the groceries.

Rut, rut, rut.

The Holy Family

Here’s another thought: Maybe the day-to-day life of the Holy Family was … day-to-day. Most likely it was repetitious. Rutty.

Mary, taking care of the home and little lad. Joseph, providing for them with his work as a carpenter. Yes, with an overarching journey of doing what the heavenly Father had asked both of them to do and with that gradual transitioning every life has.

But probably a lot of their todays resembled a lot of their yesterdays and tomorrows.

Jesus’ ministry

Further still (now dearly not wanting to inch closer to blaspheming), perhaps one could look at a sizable chunk of Jesus’ public life as, um, like a rut. Get up early and pray alone. Travel to a new town. Preach, teach, heal. Sometimes perform a bigger miracle. In the evening, go off alone and pray.

That schedule has the characteristics of a rut.

Most likely, yours does, too. Of course, Jesus’ life was much, much more than that. And so is your collection of ruts.

Matter of perspective

There’s the old tale of two bricklayers working on a large project in centuries past. The first was asked what he was doing. “I’m putting one brick on top of another.” True. Then the second was asked what he was doing. “I’m building a cathedral.” Also true.

So very often when it comes to ruts, when it comes to life, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Bill Dodds writes from Washington.

Three tips for eliminating a bad rut or rejuvenating a good one
Eliminate the bad!

1. Admit to yourself that this rut isn’t good for you or others.

2. Accept the fact it can take time and effort to get out of a bad rut, because most of us like a lot of ours — really, really, really like them. They make us feel good even as they make us feel bad. The constant complaining, the overeating, the gossiping … . We all have some.

3. At the very least start with the very most when getting help — that is, God. Start with a prayer. “Oh, dear God, help me!” can be tremendously heartfelt. And it’s always welcomed and answered.

How? The Sacrament of Reconciliation for one. And often with his providing ways of getting nuts-and-bolts information on ways to change — ways to stop — whatever bad rut has you feeling so trapped.

Sometimes that’s professional help. Sometimes a friend. Sometimes a person who spent time in that same rut. Sometimes — no, always — it includes the God-offered strength to persevere. You and God, working on it together.

And rejuvenate the good!

1. Admit that this rut is good for you and others, but a little tweak here or there can be a pleasant relief. Your personal prayer life, for example. It may be time to shake it up, baby. Piously.

Perhaps more emphasis on the liturgical year — Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. Incorporating some readings and prayers depending on the Church season or feast day.

2. Share that rut. Fixing those lunches. Shopping for groceries. Whatever it is, with some ruts, one’s bleak, two’s company and three’s even better. Get help sharing the load and be more ready to share the loads of others.

3. Look at that rut through grateful eyes. Yes, you have to do this or that again and again and again. But you can do this or that again and again and again. You’re physically, mentally and financially able.

So many aren’t. So many who would truly love to “have to” do them. Would give just about anything to be “stuck in that rut.” Say a prayer for those folks as you count your ruts, as you count your blessings

Bill Dodds

Bill Dodds writes from Washington.