Dear Father John, if we are supposed to be partners with God, why do I feel like I have to do so much of the work? My husband gets by with doing next to nothing. I have a sense that neither of us is right and we need to find some balance. Can you help?
…as I mentioned in our last post, different personalities tend to react to [the] truth about our partnership with God in different ways. If carried to the extreme, these reactions can lead to a lack of interior balance, inhibiting the “glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) that we are called to begin experiencing even as we travel along our pilgrimage in this fallen world. Each of us needs to develop an awareness of how these tendencies show up in our own case, so as to gradually develop a healthy sense of balance while our interior freedom matures…[In our last post, we looked at the achiever’s trap. Mediocrity is our focus today.]
The Lull of Mediocrity
For more social and spontaneous types, the tendency tilts to the other extreme: underemphasizing our role in spiritual growth. Casual and easy-going folks can fall into being lazy Christians, satisfied with comfortable mediocrity, because “God will take care of it.”
Comfortable Christians habitually let their good, God-inspired resolutions languish and die. They may avoid the big dramatic sins, but they also avoid the taxing demands of mature love. They hear the Lord’s call, and they feel the attraction of spiritual maturity (and sincerely desire it), but, like the rich young man in the Gospel who “went away sad” (Mark 10:22) after rejecting the Lord’s invitation to leave behind his comfort zone, they have difficulty mustering up enough spiritual energy to keep on giving of themselves to God and neighbor until it hurts. They may not even allow themselves to consciously realize that they are resisting the nudge of grace.
Signs of Stagnation
Sometimes this tendency is hard to diagnose, because comfortable Christians are often jovial and quite engaged in good, holy activities that they enjoy. But they are not growing in their spiritual lives, because they are continually refusing, directly or indirectly, God’s invitations to go deeper. They usually have good excuses, but their repeated refusals gradually create a kind of gray spiritual undertone in their lives, a hazy sense of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, a vague sadness lurking in the corners of their consciousness. This can even deepen into hidden but spiritually destructive self-loathing if the tendency fails to be identified and faced.
This under-emphasizing of our part is hard to live with. So, comfortable Christians frequently develop attachments to superficial pastimes that serve as distractions and temporary escape routes. God is continually calling out to them, because he never gives up on any of us. But they are afraid of answering the call and stepping out of their comfort zone, so they find ways to drown out that still, small voice.
Comfortable Christians need to develop courage and perseverance. They need to allow the Holy Spirit to remind them of what’s at stake in the spiritual battle. St. Paul is a sure guide in these reflections:
Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain…. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. (2 Corinthians 6:1; Philippians 2:12; Galatians 6:9)
Here again, [just like in the case of over-ahievers] contemplating God’s goodness can provide powerful fuel for growth: The more convinced we are of God’s wisdom and love toward us, the better chance we will have of trusting him when he invites us to step into uncomfortable territory. And even if we just keep taking very little steps, he will work wonders: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
+ + +
Editor’s Note: This is another excerpt from Father John Bartunek’s new book “Seeking First the Kingdom” filled with “practical examples and down-to-earth wisdom which will show you how to bring Christ into each facet of your life”. Click here to learn more about the book…or if you wish to get it for a friend or relative who doesn’t read on line.
Art: Okopavanje (“earthing up”) [cultivating], Gmihail, May 4, 2012, CC by SA, Wikimedia Commons.