I was a tourist this week in NYC. My eldest daughter and I were on our first annual father/daughter trip. It was magical, it was painful (The humidity and the walking, we Californians usually walk or run only on treadmills). In any case, we happily played the role of the tourist. We were so excited to absorb and take in all that NYC had to offer.
On the first day of our stay we took the sightseeing tour bus. It was nice to cruise around the city and not have to walk so much. And the tour guide was very informative and interesting. Although one thing in particular caught my attention. In middle of his presentation, the guide stops to invite us, actually he begged us tourist, to try local shops and restaurants. He even recommended some key spots to experience. Then he went onto say that a surprising amount people come all the way to NYC and never really try anything new. They hit up the same food chains like Olive Garden, Mc Donald's, Starbucks... in New York. Starbucks in New York?
But as silly as that sounds, if you think about it, the temptation is real. The temptation to look for the familiar in a new place. We are truly creatures of habit.
The truth may be that we simply don't like "change".
We are uncomfortable with "new".
We get anxious with "different".
And sadly I find that we,
the people of faith,
are often caught in the same behavioral trend.
A Christian who is more comfortable with the old, who is afraid of change, who wants to eat at Olive Garden in New York is quite a peculiar man or woman of faith. The very essence of our faith has us thrusted into unknown territory. Being Christian we are introduced with new ways of thinking, behaving, feeling, relating, and the list goes on. The Christian has been set in motion into all things new, as well as helping to make all things new. Everything is foreign and new to us, for we have become a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. Unless, we choose to stay the same in a new place in heart and mind... and in taste.
It's like the Children of Israel, freshly freed from Egypt but still craving Pharaoh Hot Dogs and Mud Pies. I can imagine cranky kids during the great exodus complaining about everything... because everything was simply... different.
I can imagine some whining, "mom, what is this?
This bread from the sky, it's... it's... sweet. I don't like it.
I like bitter and dirty mud pies, you know that!"
“God has set us from Egypt but who’s going to set Egypt free from us?”
Think about it. Manna was called, "What is it?" Literally, God's Bread from Heaven was named, "What is It?". Everything about God's plan, purpose, and even his meals were perplexing and new, it was all foreign. "What is it?" or Manna is simply another way of saying, "I am unfamiliar with this, it's something new, what is it?"
I soon realized that much of what we call sin in the post-exodus-life-in-Christ is the unwillingness to change and try something new.
“The opposite of faith is stubbornness.”
I wondered to myself, "why do we choose the familiar, choose Olive Garden over Katz Deli?"
Here are some reasons why I think we choose the familiar over the unfamiliar.
- Trust - we don't trust that the new has anything new to offer.
- Control - we know what to expect and how to get what we want in familiar places. We are not as in control in new environments.
- Pride - we think we know better, have experienced the best, and not much can be added for our benefit from others, outside of our comfort zone.
- Ignorance - we don't know what's out there, what's good, what to order, what to experience, what to try.
Basically, we don't like looking stupid, feeling lost, being the newbie.
We rather be a master in slave-life in Egypt than an apprentice in free-life in the Exodus.
If you're experiencing the same things over and over again in life, could it be that although you are in a new place, new job, new relationship, new church that much of what you're experiencing is due to your unwillingness to change and live according to God's ways?
One of Michelle's (my wife) favorite saying is, "wherever you go, there you are." We've met countless people change jobs, change churches, change boyfriends/girlfriends, change husbands/wives yet remain the same experiencing over and over again disappointments they wished to avoid.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” - Matthew 12: 43-45 (Nothing and No One New has Occupied the Newly Delivered Heart)
- Are you unhappy with every new job after the excitement of it has worn off?
Do you find yourself already complaining, slandering, venting about your boss and job? You may be eating at Olive Gardens in NYC, again.
- Do you find yourself saying, "I knew it, all boys/girls are alike."
You may be eating at Olive Gardens in NYC, again.
- Are you in a "Christian" relationship but practicing "Egypt-Dating".
You may be eating at Olives Gardens in NYC, again.
- Are your kids frustrating you in the same ways?
You may be at Olive Gardens in NYC, again.
"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" - 2 Corinthians 5: 17
I am convinced that the opposite of faith is... familiarity.
Let's heed the advice of the tour guide and try something new.