“In some people, religion exists as a dull habit, in others as an acute fever. Religion as a dull habit is not that for which Christ lived and died.” (Thomas Kelly)
Many of us know the feeling of the dull habit—going through the motions, checking the boxes, doing what is expected, showing up, doing our duty. Things get done, numbers get counted, money is given and people seem generally satisfied, but our hearts lie elsewhere. The shine is gone.
We generally get to such places in increments. Baby steps. Lots of them.
Some lay the blame at their “stage of life.” The college student identifies distractions and academic demands. The young married points to marital adjustments and the need to create a home. The young family finds an excuse in the energy-sapping rigors of parenting. In middle-age we find ourselves preoccupied with career advancement and retirement planning. And in retirement we have limited resources, more health issues, and diminishing energy.
Spiritual dullness is not the fruit of our circumstances but the product of our distraction.
What would it take for our faith to become an acute fever (once again)? For faith to be a fire in our soul?
If dull habits emerge from distraction, then fire comes from focus—a different focus, a renewed focus, a higher focus.
Thomas Kelly suggests “holy and complete obedience, joyful self-renunciation, and sensitive listening.” Surely we can hear the words of Christ echoing in those phrases (see John 15:1-12).
Typically, we seek to cure an acute fever. It’s dangerous to over-heat. “All things—even faith—in moderation,” we say. “Nothing too radical, please.” “Settle down,” our well-meaning (but misguided) friends suggest. And as our spiritual fever subsides, dull habits develop.
This week, may Christ initiate a resurgence within us, among us, and between us. Dull habits neither honor the Cross nor nourish our souls. Let’s lean into a whole new level of “holy and complete obedience, joyful self-renunciation, and sensitive listening”—beginning now.