My brother Davis lay on his stomach on our pale blue carpet, head resting in hands, a sea of books surrounding him.
“Hey, Dallas, did you know that the Santa María wrecked near modern-day Haiti on its way back to Spain?”
“No. I didn’t.”
I had just read about Christopher Columbus. Maybe I missed something? I reached over for my history book that was among the tomes encircling my brother and began to flip to the correct section.
“Oh, no. It’s not in there. I read it in one of the books I got from the library the other day.”
My third-grade American history book opened with a chapter titled “Sailors and Sea Monsters.” Well, that was more fascinating to Davis than learning how to write in cursive. So after school, he picked up my textbook and read the whole section on Christopher Columbus. Then the one on Pocahontas. Then everyone from George Washington to George Washington Carver. In all my textbooks, I’d find dog-eared pages and highlights, making clear that I wasn’t the first to discover what the pages held. He continued this well into my college years, until he decided that he didn’t care to read books about literacy rates and Shakespearean sonnets.
Always curious, Davis would ask Mom questions and find other books at the library about whatever new thing captured his attention. To this day, when exposed to something unfamiliar, he consults his dear friend Google, reading until he can tell you every single detail about it. Even if he already has a general understanding, he’s always pursuing more.
I’ve found that it’s easy for me to fall into complacency—even when it comes to things of the faith.
However, when I have a general understanding of something, I’m ready to move on to the next thing. I don’t need to know the who, how, and why; I just want to know the what. The difference between my brother and me doesn’t make one of us right and one wrong—each personality type has positives and negatives. But I’ve found that it’s easy for me to fall into complacency—even when it comes to things of the faith. I hear a lesson and think, Oh yeah. I remember learning that. So I tune out. The Sunday school discussion about being salt of the earth? Yes, I know. We preserve. We flavor. The sermon on Daniel? Surprise. The lions didn’t eat him.
There’s an old adage that says, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Perhaps “contempt” can better be described as a loss of respect, of awe. I forget that the well-known stories of the Bible are still “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), and somewhere along the way, I began to settle for enough instead of pursuing more. In my heart, I was aware that I didn’t know everything, but I let my pride win instead of my curiosity. I became passive, assuming that I knew all I needed to know, like a person floating down a river in an inner tube, eyes closed. I was along for the ride but missing all the sights. Maybe some mistakes could have been evaded, or perhaps there were missed blessings and opportunities. It’s easy to live not fully present, but God has so many insights and adventures for us, if only our eyes are open.
There wasn’t a lightning-bolt moment when I realized how wrong I was. Instead, I began to understand just how much I didn’t understand about the God I’d known since I was 6. Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He is. He’s waking me up from an unintentional slumber, teaching me that He’s greater than what I had limited Him to. Like Davis, I’m realizing there’s still so much more.
Illustration by Jeff Gregory