Habituation

Princess Emma and Abby at Disney World
Princess Emma and Abby at Disney World

My daughter is an only child. I know, I know. Judgements were already made in your mind about how spoiled only children are. In the case of my daughter you’d be half right. She doesn’t get everything she wants but she does have more than she needs. I could argue that we all have more than we need but that’s a topic for another post.

Like any 8-year-old from a blessed family, she has a roomful of toys, stuffed animals and books. I can proudly say that she takes very good care of everything she owns but some things are more important than others. Her Build-A-Bear Abby that she received on her 5th birthday is probably her favorite. She still plays with the rest of her stuff, but it’s not as important to her as Abby.

You know when we first receive something new, our excitement is intense. We’re very aware of a change in our environment. In the case of our childhood, that new toy was all we wanted to play with. But after a while, we don’t notice it’s there. New things and interests come along and redirect our attention elsewhere. We become habituated. The job we’ve worked in for years becomes drudgery. The time we’ve spent with our spouse becomes mundane and predictable. The house needs painting but we don’t really notice anymore.

The worst place we can become habituated is in our spirituality. Getting up and going to worship on Sunday is just what we do. Hearing the same sermons about the same topics just becomes commonplace. We say “guide, guard and direct us” because it’s what you say in prayers. The zeal is gone and we know it but we’re too habituated to notice or too relaxed to care.

Jesus said this to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-5.  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.”

It sounds as if Jesus was scolding the Ephesians for becoming habituated and complacent. Going through the motions may be a comfortable way to live but Jesus didn’t come just so we could live comfortable lives. He wants us to hold strong to our zeal for him. Only then can we be most effective for the Kingdom of God.

-Joe

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