Homeostasis – a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group – Webster’s Dictionary
We tend to gravitate toward the things we are most comfortable with. We are most comfortable with the things we have done the most and are most practiced with. To be spiritually mature there are some things that just can’t remain the same. Growth is a necessity but growth is challenged by our tendency to keep things the same. When some things stay the same too long we stagnate and our faith is no longer as fresh and our spiritual lives stop maturing. There is a term used in exercise called “muscle confusion.” The principle is that if a muscle does the same exercises day in and day out it will find the most efficient way of doing that movement and growth will occur more slowly. You have to mix things up a bit in order to keep your muscles “on their toes.” Where do we find the trend toward homeostasis?
We see this in the small group environment all the time. We launch groups with lofty goals of reaching the lost and bringing new members in but often the groups end up being the same people week in and week out and we default into fellowship mode. Why? Because we trend toward what we are most comfortable and practiced with. We get used to those same familiar faces and we aren’t used to inviting people so we don’t. This has been the death of many small groups.
Personal Bible Study:
We see this in our personal Bible study. If you have never been good at it you often may try a new routine but it just never really catches and you default back into “life as usual.” You may keep at it for a week or two but then you find that your mornings or evenings look just like they used to and we get back in our old habits and routines.
This can happen in worship when we sing the same songs (old or new) for so long that we no longer listen to the words. We have typically thought this happens most with the old songs but it can happen just as easily with the newer songs when we sing the same couple of songs every week.
Home run texts:
This can also happen in the texts we decide to study from, teach from and preach from. I have noticed that certain texts seem to show up a lot in sermons. Texts like Philippians 2, John 1, and Romans 8 are so rich in meaning that it is easy to default back to those texts when preparing for a class. In order to keep viewing the Bible in light of its textual richness, we need to study a variety of passages and bring those to light as well.
The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is, trying new things is difficult. It is hard to break out of the norm (That is why it is called the norm). But the norm is not always healthy. I think it is important to label areas of our personal lives that need improvement, understand why we have done things the way we have for so long, and make a new plan with the goal of making that “the norm.” We may feel that consistency means we need to do the same things over and over again. That is not necessarily true spiritually. The challenge is to consistently turn toward the disciplines, postures, and activities that are most needed at any given moment. By doing so we attempt to keep our minds from going on spiritual “auto-pilot” and have a sort of spiritual “muscle confusion” where our spiritual muscles get challenged again and again so that we can grow on to maturity.
I plead guilty as charged on the home run texts. Despite having a degree in Bible there are select books that I teach on or from over and over again. As it happens, one of them is Philippians; I usually teach it as part of a class on the Prison Letters that I have taught about 8 times over the years.
“The challenge is to consistently turn toward the disciplines, postures, and activities that are most needed at any given moment.”
So many of us equate discipline with legalism and this should not be the case. The spiritual disciplines are very much needed in our development as mature Christians.
Thanks for bringing this up.
Christ be with you!