“We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away…” (Hebrews 2:1)
I don’t spend a lot of time on boats, but whenever I do I am always a little bit amazed at the power of the current. It’s one of those forces that’s always there, no matter how still and pristine a body of water might seem, still churning and moving below the surface.
Imagine with me that you go out on a boat on one of those clear, warm early summer days. The clouds are minimal, and the wind is even less, so you cruise out to the middle of the lake on what seems like a sheet of glass. You can shut down the motor of the boat right in the middle with the intent of letting the kids swim for a while. And, for the next hour or so you throw each other off the boat, practice cannonballs, and have a snack. But then, inevitably, you have to restart and reposition the boat because even though you turned off the motor in the middle, you look up and notice that you are closer to one side of shore than you were an hour before.
Why? It’s because you’ve drifted. You didn’t mean to move; you had no intent of changing your position. you just stopped fighting the current; you stopped paying attention. Because there are constant currents, you are always moving whether you recognize it or not. When you’re out on the lake, unless you choose to take an active effort against doing so, you are going to drift.
Drifting is something that happens over time. It’s slow and steady, almost imperceptible. It can happen so gradually in fact that it goes without notice. And just as a boat in a body of water so also is the human heart. We have the tendency to drift. And the real problem with drifting spiritually is that you don’t know it’s happening until it’s already happened.
But what if you could? Are there certain checkpoints that, if they appear in your life, you know that the drifting has started? That the rope tied to the anchor of faith has started to let out? That you are slowly moving in a direction that you didn’t intend to go? I think there are, and here’s three to think about.
All of us live in some kind of routine whether we know it or not. These routines can come about either intentionally or unintentionally. On the intentional side, it might be that you make yourself exercise or study the Bible; unintentionally it could be something as simple as always washing your hands when you come into the house from outside. It’s not something you planned; it’s just something you do.
One of the checkpoints for spiritual drift, I believe, is to take a look at your habits. See what patterns are emerging unintentionally. These patterns will give you a good indication of where your heart is moving. If, say, you are slowly moving toward the habit of self-isolation or over extending your schedule, then you know you need to take action in order to recenter yourself. Similarly, if you are getting out of the habit of daily Bible study, prayer, and honest conversation then the rope might be letting out a bit.
2. Response to sin.
Sin can become a habit; so can our response to it. There is a certain sorrow that should accompany our sin. That sorrow is actually a good thing because it’s an indicator that we are grasping, at least in small part, the gravity of what it is we are doing. But if you find yourself becoming more and more flippant about the sin in your life, and correspondingly less and less worried about it, it’s a strong sign that you are moving further and further out.
3. Relationships with others.
It continues to amaze me just how connected our relationships with others are with our relationship with God. The vertical always impacts the horizontal. So if you find yourself being easily angered, quickly annoyed, judgmental, or simply not as understanding and kind as you once were, that’s not just an issue you have with the people in your home or the workplace. It’s probably an indicator that something else is going on. I know for me one of the clearest indicators about the state of my relationship with God is how I am treating my wife and my kids.
These certainly aren’t the only ways to tell if you’re drifting spiritually. They are, however, I think 3 good checkpoints. If we examine our habits, our response to sin, and our relationships with others, I think we will be able to see whether or not we are paying the kind of close attention we need to in order to avoid that unintentionally drifting from God.