October 15, 2011

on battling apathy

Crunchy leaves strewn on the sidewalk, frosty mornings, river-valley strolls and chai lattes. Autumn is here, in all its glory. As is my church's tradition, on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend we hosted a Bible conference. It is a busy weekend, full of sermons, turkey, sunshine and conversation. 

Our speaker's chosen topic was Titus and his sermons made me uncomfortable. Truths from the Word filled pages of my journal, but more than that, they cut into my heart. Two of the key themes in Titus are sober-mindedness and good works. Truly, the two go hand in hand. All believers are taught to be "live soberly" (2:12), which means "to reserve your mind for that which is important." Once the believer's mind is reserved, what should it apply itself to? Titus teaches that "those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (3:8) and "be ready for every good work" (3:1).

What does Titus' message of sober living and good works has to say to me, at age (almost) twenty-six. Twenty-six? Even as I type that, it looks old. When I realize that it will soon be ten years since I finished high school, or five years since I started my current job, I realize that I am no spring chicken.

When seasons change, it often causes me to think about the passage of time. There are beautiful things that come with growing up. But one of the worst things about getting older is how easy it is to become complacent in areas where you were once more "zealous for good works" (2:15). You've tried something a few times, and seen no noticeable results, so you quit trying. Relationships that once thrived and seemed so central to your life cool off and disappointment ensues. It is too easy to settle for 90%. To trade prayer and Bible reading for extra sleep. To become—let's admit it—bitter. To become jaded.

I easily become complacent in my personal life.Who would have thought that I'd be battling to find time in my day for Scripture reading? This is not because I have no time, but because I expend it in other ways. I don't reserve my mind for that which is important. While I say the Word should be my meat and my lifesource, too often I'm just grabbing the lite, to-go version, with no time for digging deeper. And my prayer life? Let's not even go there. Unimportant, temporal things easily take priority over Bible reading and prayer. Am I getting old and lazy?

Sometimes helping at church feels so yesterday. After teaching quite a few years of Sunday school or designing lots of flyers, I am tempted to want to kick back and relax. I want to sleep through the early service or slough off additional responsibilities. I've done my share, right? I meet young-ish people who "used to lead youth group" or "used to teach Sunday school" but now do nothing to serve their local church (whether public or behind-the-scenes). How close am I to that in my heart some days? While it is not wrong to cut back or asses how best to use my time, sometimes my attitude is so selfish and cold.

At work, I find that my attitudes are often less than Christlike. I "pilfer" my employer's time (Titus 2:10) and answer back (2:9) instead of "adorning the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." I hang my head at how many times words have come out of my mouth that were not edifying. After a good Scripture bath and conviction, I'm reminded of how I need to improve, but too quickly I go back to blasé. The words and attitudes I see in myself at work evidence a heart in much need of a Saviour.

Some days I've been discouraged. I've seen the grey, the clouds, the dreariness. I'm not content being so apathetic, but I'm not zealous, either, and it is not comfortable on the fence. But here is the wonder  of it all: amidst my struggles, I find a merciful, gracious God who runs to meet me when I come to Him in repentance. If anyone would be justifiably jaded, it is Him, with me. Yet whenever I finally come to Him, He fans the flames of this cold heart through the very things it struggles to reserve itself for: the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers and good, old-fashioned, hard work.

How can I battle apathy in my personal life, in my work, in my church, and in every area? First of all, I need a change of mind about my apathy, and must confess my sin to my great God and Saviour (Titus 2:13). After that, for me, the answer lies in discipline. I know that if I don't make definite choices, and follow up on them, my life will default to the path of least resistance, instead of that to which God is calling me. (I know that my mind won't be "reserved for that which is important" without a battle of supernatural proportions - cf. Eph. 6). Lists are often helpful to me, whether they are lists of tasks (to keep myself focused) or lists of priorities, so that I don't get distracted by the urgent rather than the important. Which good works does God have for me? Will I structure my life so that I can be reserved for those good works? Will I be sober-minded enough to keep the standard high? Apathy must be battled intentionally, by the power of God.

Tonight I wandered outside in the blackness. Night comes earlier now, as winter approaches. The tree in front of my house has forgotten to drop its leaves, but many others have remembered. I listened to the renewing sounds of Daylight Worship and gloried in Christ. His mercy is still available to me. He's bought me back, so that I can live a life of purpose and fulfillment. I, for one, am thankful.

4 comments:

  1. No brilliant words to share, only that I've been thinking of this post since I read it last week - it touched my heart because it speaks so clearly to where I am right now. Praying for you.

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  2. Thanks, Steph, for your visits, your comments, and your prayers. I pray God will give you the discipline needed to grow in "good works" and that you will enjoy the Lord and learn what He has for you in this season.

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  3. What? You're no "spring chicken?" Um, compared to some of us - you are!

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  4. It's all relative, Anonymous! :)

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