“So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
Thank you, St. John, for recording this fantastic line.
Lukewarm. Complacent. Conceited. Self-satisfied. Unconcerned.
We could go on, but there is no need. Complacency is one of the greatest dangers to the spiritual life. I know it is too often a silent killer of mine. As a Youth Minister, I see the harmful effects of complacency all of the time. Teens will have a powerful experience on a retreat, at a youth night or in prayer, and three months later revert to the pre-converted life. Did God stop working? Did He show up during that one encounter, only to flee?
Complacency happened. A transformational experienced followed by little effort or desire for more.
The moment water stops boiling, it begins to cool.
Too often, this is the story of our lives. We live for the next mountaintop experience, but that might be months away. What are we doing right now? Are we present to Christ and desiring Him, the One who has risen and is with us now?
My wife is on bed rest during our current pregnancy, meaning the kitchen (especially its cleanliness) has become my domain. The latter is particularly bad news. I remember draining the water from a can of diced tomatoes into a glass measuring cup. I also remember thinking at the time, once again, that we don’t have a garbage disposal. Naturally, I “didn’t know what to do with the stuff.” And, backing my common plea of ignorance, I noticed some separation had occurred within the liquid, which made for a cool-looking cup of red water ranging in color from light to dark.
Each day my laziness trumped the petite desire to clean up the cup. So, an amount of time (that will not be named here) passed. Eventually I took a closer look at the suspension and realized that a few mold spores had spawned on the surface of the liquid. Imagine lily pads on a bright red pond. Cool stuff.
Though I was now more fascinated than before, I knew my experiment had to end, because my laziness would soon be discovered. I threw the watery liquid away, but not without making a brief spiritual connection.
That cup of red juice is analogous to our oft-complacent hearts. Once we stop moving toward Christ, desiring more of Him in our lives, and become stagnant… that is when sin, doubt, fear, and anxiety creep in. They begin as little spores on the surface – a little sin here or there – but eventually they will cover the entire thing (which, I’m assuming, would’ve happened had I allowed my experiment to continue).
How do we avoid complacency or the tendency to live only for the next mountaintop experience? Here are a few thoughts for pursuing consistency in the personal relationship with Christ:
- Pray for a conversion of heart that moves beyond feelings.
- Pursue Christ and allow your heart to be pursued by committing to a life of daily, consistent prayer.
- Frequent the Sacraments.
- Seek more. Ask for more. God does not fit inside the little box we create for Him. He is big, His love is grand, and He wants to show you over and over again that He has more in store.
- Find community, especially a community that is striving together and calling one another on.
These thoughts on complacency are a reminder of the importance of ongoing conversion – daily turning to Christ – remaining with Him in all of our circumstances. There exists a need for our hearts to freely choose His Presence again and again. This alone can overcome the crusted-over, unconcerned, complacent lifestyle.
Last Lent – yes, it is the Easter season and I realize we do not soon want to revisit Lent – Pope Benedict provided us with some insight into this matter. He said:
Every day is a favorable moment of grace, because each day invites us to give ourselves to Jesus, to have confidence in him, to remain in him, to share his style of life, to learn from him true love, to follow him in daily fulfilling of the will of the Father, the only great law of life – every day, even when difficulties and toil, exhaustion and falls are not lacking, even when we are tempted to abandon the following of Christ and to shut ourselves in ourselves, in our egoism, without realizing the need we have to open to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love. (General Audience, February 17, 2010)
To become boiling hot? That is up to us.
We know Christ’s desire for our lives.
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