Avoiding the driftwood trajectory
DRIFTING can happen in music and in life. I had a gifted friend in our vocal music class in high school who would begin singing right on pitch but invariably drift off key. Part of her problem might have been that she was not listening to herself, or her hearing might have been slightly impaired. Drifting in our spiritual lives can happen in any season of life, but in our latter season it might be more common.
Scripture mentions drifting with a caution. “...We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)
Drifting in the natural world implies being carried along by wind or current or tide. We can visualize as the movement of a boat when loosened from an anchor. That implies an eventual deviation from its intended trajectory; it will vary from its set course. A gradual movement downstream can happen when a vessel loses power and floats aimlessly. It can occur quietly and unnoticed until suddenly the boat has drifted downriver a surprising distance.
Spiritually, drifting is what we used to call “backsliding” in the evangelical world. A person who was once fervent, strong, and bold in his beliefs and witness quietly seems to have become lukewarm and withdrawn. He seems to have lost his power and begins to deviate from God's purpose which formerly impelled him towards God's intended trajectory. Such persons have slipped away from God Who has been their Anchor and soon find themselves at a distance downstream.
Scripture uses several terms related to drifting: “falling away, being carried away, wandering, tossed here and there by waves, being led away, going astray, carried about by every wind of doctrine, driven and tossed.” In most cases those words are directed to believers, to Christians. Since God has created us with free will, we can decide to change course or unless we are careful, drift off course. If we stop pressing on spiritually, drift is inevitable because of the drag of the current of materialism and the secular culture around us.
In the book of Revelation Jesus Himself is recorded as calling such a drift 'losing your first love' and His command is to remember from where you have fallen and repent. Jesus declared He would rather that we be cold or hot than lukewarm, tepid, and half-hearted.
In the context of our mature years, what could possibly cause us to become spiritual driftwood washed up, as it were, on the shores of life after we have been faithfully fervent and effective in our Christian lives? Are any of us immune to such a possibility? The latter season of our lives carries its own special temptations and influences. We may have become physically tired, exhausted, weak and weary with the length of our journey. Our knees buckle and our arms hang limp both physically and spiritually. The pressure of circumstances, the loss of beloved relationships, loneliness, being forced to downsize our living situations—these and many other factors may contribute to discouragement and depression which leads to spiritual drifting.
What is the remedy for drifting? A vessel drifts when it is cut loose from an anchor. Aside from any other adverse circumstances, we drift spiritually when we are not careful to maintain our connection with our Anchor, God, and subsequently with others in the community of faith. The New Testament letters are full of admonitions to “hold fast.” The term is repeated again and again. We need to continually “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” That intimate relationship keeps the fires of “first love” burning.
The instruction of Hebrews 2:1 is all the more pertinent to those of us in our older years. We must “pay much closer attention” even than we did in our younger and mid-years. Long time followers of the Lord for decades and scores of years dare not regard God's Truth as “same old-same old” that we have heard so many times before. That is a particular temptation. Perhaps we need new “hearing aids.” The Holy Spirit has fresh, new ways of speaking God's ancient truths to us in our advanced years.
God wants us to keep singing wholeheartedly while we are at the summit of our life journey and not drift off key. This life is a dress rehearsal for our Life To Come. Let's sing our way Home in perfect pitch!