The Unknown and the Nasty Habit of Complacency

We have a nasty habit in our culture. We have a habit of settling in. "Complacency" is what we might call it but it can be sneaky. We figure that after a certain age, things should stay the way they are. Once we've got the right job and the right house we are less welcoming to the unknown and we feel that we should no longer have to mature. When we're young, we get it. We know that if we want to grow, if we want to mature, there are certain things we have to do and we know that each step we take toward maturity is a step toward the unknown, so we welcome it with relative enthusiasm. We know roughly what it is we should mature into. To mature in knowledge and wisdom, we've got to go to school. We've got to work to get good grades and eventually we've got to take that infamous risk of going to a new school, a new class, an unknown college environment. The unknown is simply a given.

This habit is reflected in many churches. For example, in some settings, in order to become a member of the church there is hardly any requirement... maybe an affirmation of faith or a Saturday morning breakfast or something... unless you're a teenager; then you've got to go through a confirmation class/process, you've got to attend classes and achieve certain rights of passage. "Kids" are expected to grow while adults just sign on the dotted line. Now, nothing against confirmation for teenagers, but why the double-standard? Shouldn't we expect adults to continue to grow? After all, isn't the Christian life a journey, a process in itself?

The fact is, maturity requires change. In order to truly grow, you've always got to be entering into the unknown, stepping into a place you've never been. And the truth is we're all scared of it. However, we don't mind imposing change onto kids who obviously (sometimes more obviously than others) need to mature. But when it comes to us, we feel like we eventually earn the right to stop growing. Like I said, that's a nasty habit.

I had a professor in college, Dr. John Hartley, who once said that learning is always painful. Learning requires the humility to see that what we once thought was true may not be and that what we had never considered may actually be true. Learning also involves grieving. We must grieve the loss of our former ignorance and embrace the new and unfamiliar state of enlightenment. But we never arrive, it never stops, we're always learning. It is painful indeed.

This is the season of graduation. High schools and colleges around the country are celebrating their graduating classes and the graduates from these schools are all looking toward the future. whether they do or do not welcome change, they'll be forced to endure it. They are all stepping into a future they've never seen. And if we do not all, whatever our age or context, recognize that we are actually in the same boat, we are under an illusion. We are all stepping into a future to which we've never been. We are all going to endure the unfamiliar. We can either welcome the change, grow with it, take the proper steps toward maturity with humility, or we can dig our heals in the ground, protect the gates, and be forced to endure it anyway, even in arrogance and ignorance.

There is so much more growing to be done. Ultimately, it's not about achieving the right social status or arriving at the right state of contentment. It's about crying out for the truly unfamiliar and utterly transcendent kingdom of God, seeking to grow into citizens of God's reign--a future reality which visits us even now in the resurrected Christ. Do not fear the unfamiliar, perfect love casts out fear.