Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1
When I was a young boy, my dad took me fishing on the lake near our home. Gathering all of our tackle and poles, we boarded a small boat one Saturday afternoon, pushed off from the wooden, creaking dock and rowed toward a series of small inlets near the western shore on the opposite side. (It was a 30-minute trip when the wind was with us.) In the gray/green of hidden, shadowed coves, “the big ones” lay gently moving in the cool stillness of the deep.
That was our goal. We knew where to go. We knew the way to get there, but there was just one challenge, a familiar challenge:
Rowing against the wind and the current.
Unseen from shore and boat alike, there was a hidden, steady pushing as invisible to us as it was real: an organized, focused pressure that seemed personal and determined to push us not toward the coves, but away from them.
We rowed against the current and the headwinds and arrived at our destination. Casting our lines into the water, we dropped our baited hooks and lures between the sunken branches in hopes of enticing one or two fish out of their languid comfort.
But this story isn’t about fishing.
It’s about drifting.
As we fished, we noticed that whenever we stopped rowing, the gentle pressure below us and the whispering breeze around us slipped and slid our little boat away from the coves and into the broader body of the lake.
We didn’t notice it at first. We were fishing. Over time, we just realized we were suddenly somewhere else we hadn’t intended to be or, for that matter, particularly wanted to be.
Gradually. Steadily. Surely. Slowly. We had drifted.
In the verse above, the writer of Hebrews must have spent some time in a boat, too. He knew that drifting in our lives is subtle and easy. It just fits us so well: a comfortable, choice-less, vague, half-lidded view of the day.
It can look like this:
- “I’ll mow the yard tomorrow.”
- “Yes. I’d love to work out with you, Cindy. My wife won’t mind.”
- “We can skip church today and worship at home…home church!”
- “I have doubts about doing this, but God wants me to be happy, right?”
- “I need to work late again tonight. My family will understand (again).”
- “This movie is full of violence. But isn’t all of life?”
- “I’ve read the Bible through. What more can it say to me?”
- “Those people who just lost their home in a fire, I hope somebody helps them.”
So easy to drift.
With each lie, rationalization or avoidance, our vision becomes more narrow and self-centered. Our wants become needs. We forget promises made. Friends become less and less valued. God feels more and more distant. Our love chills, grows cold, and then ices over into a calloused, unsmiling indifference.
We drift into nameless, pathless places, places that, over time, drain away our identities and leave us despairing for the light: stumps of driftwood – dry, dead and dumped on a lonely, cheerless shore.
We awaken in places we don’t recognize, don’t particularly want to be, a very long way from the well-stocked coves of our life’s purpose.
“. . . we must pay closer attention to what we have heard . . .”
This means to be intentional about daily reviewing the written Truth in the Bible, the words of Jesus, the only One who never drifted . . . making it a home within us . . . adopting it as our own . . . acting in its very power.
We have to read and re-read scripture. Discuss it with others. Ask our hard questions. Pray and listen. Hear the stories of other sailors who have been fishing longer than we have.
Pray, wait and obey.
These are steady oar strokes against the tide.
Today, 45 years later, the memory of fishing that afternoon with my dad rolls past my mind with so much clarity, I can still feel the Saturday afternoon sun warm on my face, can still be enchanted by the dance of its brightness on the wavy surface before my eyes.
But my memory of that fishing trip is less about the fishing. Its more about the drifting.
There’s a gentle, subtle breeze on my face.
I know what that means.
Let’s keep rowing.
Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well-built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:46-49