One of my concerns when my children were growing up was that one day they would be - all grown up. But who would they then be? Would they be people of good character? Would they be people of faith? And would their faith lead them to their own vibrant adventure with God?
Or, would their faith just be their father's faith, warmed over? I wondered, would they encounter God on the high plane of their own new story. Or would they just "phone it in," merely going through the motions of the faith habit that they learned in our home.
I don’t want my children to be on auto pilot when it comes to their faith. I want them to tussle with God in the throes of wrestling their way to their own spiritual maturity. I want them to hunger after God and God’s highest. I want them to spend themselves on the effort of their own personal discovery process.
I want them to truly invest, and then invest some more, as growth requires it. I want them to lay it all on the line out of love for Him. In short, I want them to be people of godly intensity. And, for that matter, I wish that same intensity for the whole of the Church. That is just the right way of things.
This early concern for my children came from a simple observation. What I saw is what I have come to call the "Second Generation Creep." That term pretty well describes what I have noticed: that sometimes, children who grow up in Christian homes develop a kind of "Rote Religion." That is, their experience with God has not the intensity of mom and dad’s experience. Rather, their experience morphs into something more mechanical. It becomes too automatic. It lacks the substance of their own deep devotion.
And it is true that this Generational Creep also seems to sometimes touch the Church as a whole, both on the local and the larger scale. When we get "all grown up" as a church, we sometimes just find our "Rote Rut" and get in it. We do what we’ve always done. We settle into the comfort zone of the familiar; and we just go through the motions - pretty much without intellectual, emotional, or spiritual intensity.
Nevertheless, the words of the first admonition remain simple. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength."
In one sense, these words are the First Words. And as we occasionally revisit them in our heart, these words, can save us. They can save us from the quagmire of an "Automated Religion" which merely takes us through the motions of our father’s faith without asking us to discover our own.
When allowed to envelope the heart, these words can awaken us to fresh levels of relationship with God. They can infuse us with new devotion. They can animate us with curiosity and heightened interest. They can move us to a very personalized investment. These words are the core words of real spiritual intensity.
Maybe, in keeping with this season of renewal, it would, indeed, be appropriate to revisit these words in our heart. And in doing so, perhaps we can experience again their powerful reminding.
No one ever really discovers God in the delusional fog of their Ho Hum. We only ever truly come to know Him in the clarity of our all.