Have We Have Become Comfortably Numb?

Posted on August 29, 2011

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Comfortable.  The most dangerous place for people (especially the Church) to be is when we allow ourselves to become comfortable…comfortable not just in our physical living conditions but in an attitude of acceptance or resignation that the tragedies occurring around us are just normal everyday things which will never go away.  We become calloused; deaf to the plight and pain of others.  How else could we ever become comfortable enjoying our ‘stuff’ unless we were able to quiet the voice of conscience within us?

Mother Teresa said that we have a better chance to be useful to God, when we first recognize that we are not the authors; we’re just the pencil.  A pencil only has to allow itself to be used.

We must be willing to let go of the trappings of ‘societal recognition’, prestige and get real.  By societal recognition, I mean our ‘stuff’: our houses, cars, 401ks, salaries, plasma TVs, Xboxes, Macs, iPods, smart phones, etc., the stuff that we use as crutches to prop up our bruised egos and make us feel better about ourselves.  God may not ask for everything but we need to hold them with a flat palm; never tight-fisted, lest the item in turn owns us instead of the other way around.

I am reminded of Moses, in his final prayer to the Hebrews, as they would be entering the Promised Land without him.  He acknowledged the danger of comfort.  He did not worry about them during times of great difficulty.  His greatest concern for them was during the times ahead when life was going well for them, in the times of prosperity when people’s minds would drift from God and His calling.

This is where we find the modern western church today.  Prosperous and comfortable but also a bit calloused and isolated from the suffering around us.  We might be inclined to wring our hands and go on an anti-church tirade, but our energy would be misguided.  The church of today, in our mindset, is just a building, it’s not a single-minded entity which can be reasoned with and turned around.  It’s people.  It’s us, so save your fiery darts for use on yourself.

I’ve mentioned before the vanity of cursing the darkness.  It does not make us enlightened or special in any way.  It’s the lowest form of personal expression; it is the basest manifestation of our fallen self-serving nature.  Deflection – we have mastered the art of deflecting attention (ours and others) away from our self and our life, in a masterful stroke of mis-direction, drawing our eyes and other’s eyes toward external wrongs without a thought to how we personally might actually make a difference or dealing with our own self-initiated wrongs by commission or omission.  We should be focusing on our own personal motivation and inquiring of ourselves, ‘Am I even doing what I am cursing the church of others for not doing?’

Again, spreading the light, not cursing the darkness, should be our goal; with the focus on our actions and inactions and not others.  Why?  Spreading the light requires us to switch the focus to self, understanding what is expected of us and then executing on it.  Saying yes, to God in faith requires change, a sacrifice, an action which comes with a cost to us and our families.  We must give up our isolated safe, walled life and step out into the open and invest ourselves in the lives of others.  It’s messy, frequently emotional and deeply life changing.  It’s a mystery; unknowable path and it requires great faith – more than most of us have ever had to express before.

Cursing the darkness asks nothing of us and that is why it is our safest and most common expression.  But it’s also a cop-out choice, the default pattern; the insecure coward’s selection and more often than not, it’s our lifestyle choice, as well.

An old friend surprised me with a powerful statement he made a while back.  I will leave you to mediate upon it. “We gain our identity by those we associate with.  Acting outside of those shared values requires significantly more effort and risk…”

Each of us needs to ask ourselves, are we content to just be a rudderless boat drawn by the current around us – living comfortably numb, or are we willing to step out and risk ridicule for standing up for what’s right and be the pencil, willing to be used?

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