Sunday, January 21, 2007

Becoming familiar

"Everything's wonderful until it becomes familiar". Charles H. Spurgeon

The above quotation (Bec - notice the use of the word quotation instead of quote) is taken from a sermon by famous London preacher Charles Spurgeon*. Mentioning it as an aside, it has little to do with the main topic of the sermon which was, I believe either about our ability to trust in God's knowledge of what is to come or encouragement to keep a steady course in the midst of trial. Either way, the quotation (there's that word again) struck me and caused me to ponder long after the sermon ended.

I've long been of the belief that humanity is at its essence ungrateful. Probably the starkest example of this is modern-day America. The things that we consider commonplace - running water, three meals a day, soda to name a few - are extreme luxuries in significant parts of the world. I'm reminded of this every time I talk to my friend Juli, who, as a missionary in Kenya is faced everyday with the issues of life and death. What happened on American Idol last night is of little concerned to her or the many AIDS patients to whom she attends.

While the disparity between Americas riches and the rest of the world's poverty is not new, what's noteworthy to me is that despite this richness we often still long for more. Very few of us are content with the things that we have and the incessant desire to acquire is pronounced within us. While Americans may have the fewest reasons for these desires, I don't believe the ailment is confined to us. All over the world people long for more than what they have, even if what they have is more than enough.

Which brings me to my point (About time! - some of you might say). No matter how wonderful something is at its nascent, oftentimes we lose the sense of awe as time passes. I think this is the cause of so many failed marriages. It's not that the person isn't as wonderful as they first were, it's that their magnificence is less appreciated by the other. And when appreciation dies, love is often the second victim. That is why a heartfelt e-mail, a special gift, or an act of service can lose its appeal. After it becomes familiar, maybe even expected, our appreciation for it often dwindles, and we begin looking for something to replace it.

While this may be detrimental in our human relationships, its perilous in our relationship with God. As the one Person who is always with us, Christ is the most susceptible to seeming commonplace. Especially for those of us who have been Christians since youth, the marvel of our salvation may lose its awesomeness in the consistent retelling of the story. And unlike an angry spouse, Christ will not vie for our attention or our gratitude. Instead, in subtle ways through the wonder of His creation, the laughter of a baby, or the spark of human kindness, He beckons us to recognize His unprecedented goodness. If we refuse to hear His call, He will not convey angry invectives of the injustice. Instead, like the Father of the Prodigal Son, He will wait for us to recognize the goodness that He provides and return home.

Because the goodness of the Father is the essence of Who He is (after all God literally is love), it has a tendency to become familiar. But in its familiarity, let us not forget, it is anything but commonplace.

*I apologize for the lack of a direct reference. I need to get better about scribbling the source down when something captures my attention. After all, I want to be a responsible little blogger.

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Becoming familiar