Let me tell you something true about yourself: you are sometimes a drifter. Something inside of you has been trained for wandering off from a set course or your fixed location. You are not always where you are supposed to be. Please do not be upset and think I am being the voice of accusation – this is also true about me and, sadly, I have seen the effects of it firsthand in my own life. Most of us, when we find ourselves astray from something we were once close to, did not arrive at that distance in an instant. We moved our eyes off of it and looked somewhere else. We took it for granted. We stopped when we should have plowed on. We meandered in a different direction – but just for a little bit (we thought). Like others before us, we dropped our guard, lessened our intensity and assumed things would be just fine in a little bit. We drifted very slowly – so slowly we had no idea we were moving away at what was actually a dangerous clip. Then something happened and alerted us to our distance. We sensed trouble or emptiness or fear or apathy. Something awakened us but it was not quite soon enough. For some, this occurred in their homes with spouses, children or parents. A few of you left off from serving God because you were burned-out and needed a break…which you are still on… drifting. Others lost their gratitude for their jobs and drifted in their work performance. Yet the one drift that strikes at the core of who we are is when we have left off from God. It’s an ancient ditch and many surprised travelers have found themselves there.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1
The writer of Hebrews associated our potential for “the drift” with our failure to listen and pay attention. The same ol’ tune can become mundane and anything new begins to tantalize our ears. Admit it, you have been bored with God and His ways before. That Pied Piper begins to do his thing and we leave off from our center and skew ourselves one little step at a time as we move toward something new, something different. I am convinced that most people who go astray and forfeit that intimacy with God did so because they allowed themselves to stop treasuring Him. Not only did they not “pay much closer attention” to things they had heard before…they stopped paying attention all together. Maybe their Christianity wasn’t sexy enough. Maybe they gave in to the scent of our generation which wafts across every city and suburb, telling us that the aim of life is pleasure, entertainment and recreation. Sometimes following Christ takes you in the opposite direction of these things and, well, we don’t want to obviously sprint away from the Savior’s call. But we do allow ourselves a little drift. That’s where it all begins.
The same writer of Hebrews mentions this a few chapters later, seemingly unpacking what he has already mentioned in 2:1 above:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13
Ouch. An evil heart? Me? What does that look like because I’m actually a really decent guy? Sure, I might drift a little but EVIL? That’s a little over the top, isn’t it?
The drifting heart is called an evil heart because it is always some form of an unbelieving heart that causes us to move from God. Small steps in the wrong direction, if they are left unaddressed, become great lengths in the wrong direction. It is just a matter of time. So the writer tells you and me to “exhort one another” daily so that we do not end up as hard-hearted people who have been duped by sin. Not sin from the outside. Sin on the inside. Let’s not blame the devil or the culture or the people who hurt us. Let’s man-up and woman-up. We are the potential drifters and we need a handful of people to remind us of that – daily, if necessary. The beauty is that the God from whom we drift is always pursuing us and closing the distance that we ourselves create. He is forgiving and gracious and merciful and faithful. He will come to wherever we have drifted and bring us to where He desires us to be. As a matter of fact, He is there with you now. Not angry. Not threatening. Not pulling out a paddle to spank you. You and I are not the first prodigals God has chased down in love. That’s what He does – reclaiming drifters. Let Him hear your voice before the undertow takes you further out to a sea that you have no business floating in. By the way, if you see me floating out there someday, please practice Hebrews 3:12 and call me back to shore.