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Today we hopped on a long flight to Asia. We have arrived and are deep into combating jet lag as I write this. It’s 1:11 a.m. and the A/C isn’t working. I think we’re switching rooms…   I used to love travel – the new places and new experiences were exhilarating. But lately I find myse…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Today we hopped on a long flight to Asia. We have arrived and are deep into combating jet lag as I write this. It’s 1:11 a.m. and the A/C isn’t working. I think we’re switching rooms…
I used to love travel – the new places and new experiences were exhilarating. But lately I find myself feeling irritable as I think about getting on another plane.
There’s the possibility of a delay.
There’s the seat that starts to feel hard the longer you fly.
There’s the possibility of getting a cold from your sneezing neighbor.
There’s the exhaustion you feel because you can’t sleep sitting up.
And when you arrive, customs/Immigration lines can be long.
Plus, there’s all the comforts of home you leave.
I like my coffee waiting for me in the morning.
The couch is so comfortable.
My friends are around.
My little dog Asha looks out the window for me to come home from work and I don’t.  
I used to love to get on trains in Europe and just go. I’d sleep on sidewalks. I’d meet new people along the way and travel with them. I loved to discover new things.
Now, I wonder to myself how Rick Steeves does it. Or some of you businessmen – I take my hat off to you. You and all your frequent flyer miles are amazing.
And I think, that’s kind of how the Christian walk is. It can be hard to do the things that help you grow. It’s easier to stay comfortable. I’m ambivalent about fasting – don’t like not eating; like the results. Getting up to pray in the morning is hard when it’s cold out.
To be  ambivalent is to hold conflicting feelings simultaneously. Americans are ambivalent about the current slate of politicians running for president. It’s normal.
But it makes me uncomfortable when I read what God says about ambivalence. “A double-minded man – unstable in all his ways,” James says. “Because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth,” Jesus says in Revelation.
I don’t know if I’ll ever really be comfortable being comfortable. How about you?

Comments (8)

  • Travel is a big part of my life, driving a big rig 2,500 miles or more a week.
    The time on the road is a mental challenge. Audio books are my go to helper. Staying focused is my only option period. Lately my heart desires the same commitment it is a matter of life and death.
    Not only for me but others around me …the very spot of the tragic pile up near gainesville fl. I cross many times each day.
    The focus needed is incredible but there is no other option.

  • God’s been dealing with me about the same stuff lately. I want my life to be predictable, even and steady. I, too, like my morning coffee, hugging my wife and kids and going to the gym every M, W & F. When things don’t turn out like I plan I feel unsettled. But consistency can turn to complacency. I need to pick up my cross daily, continually seek Him and abide in him each day I wake up. It seems that every day that is off kilter I can set my mind on Him more easily. It’s harder to fit God into my “set” days. So I’m starting to (reluctantly) embrace my non-routine days as the chance of a “God-incident” is heightened, even though my routine is shot to hell! I’m with you, Seth!

    You forgot to mention how hard it is to find Internet when you travel! 😉

  • Seth,

    As usual, this is an unbelievably well-timed post. I was experiencing and praying through this very issue today.

    I have a significant amount of ambivalence, particularly towards people with whom I am extremely vulnerable. I think of it as a measure of self protection: never give too much. Don’t show up ALL the way. Don’t show your enthusiasm, exuberance, or (God forbid) need for anyone else. Let fear tug on your heart to keep you from getting in so deep you can’t get out. Have an exit strategy–a back up, in case the house burns down. I mask this ambivalence in a variety of ways, but I think the most common one is making fear look Godly. “Well, I don’t want to sin, or make an idol out of someone…” (aka, I am going to keep my distance, at least a little, so that I can keep from getting hurt).

    In psychology, ambivalent attachment is when a person has a push-pull relationship with those around them. They want to be close, desperately, but the feelings of anxiety and fear of rejection are so high, they push people away while simultaneously trying to draw near. There is no security in ambivalence. It is not settled at all.

    I’m contrasting that with some of the relationships I see in Scripture. Jonathon and David, for example. They wept and wept when parted. My only guess at the psychology there is that they were wholeheartedly present to one another. Fully engaged. All in. And so to be parted was incredibly painful. An ambivalent person never lets that much vulnerability happen–it’s simply too painful and costly. Yet, their friendship is celebrated in scripture. They encouraged each other toward the Lord but were totally engaged with each other.

    What’s the cost of staying ambivalent?
    We don’t participate fully in God using us to bless and shape other people. We miss out on discovering our strengths and weaknesses, and being loved in the midst of both. Our lives become small and continue to circle around ourselves, our comforts and our fears. We never have the opportunity to confront the inner narratives that claim we will always be rejected or abandoned: to discover that we WILL be loved by God and others, in the midst of being imperfect and messy. And, God have mercy, we never have the opportunity for God to reshape us and teach us to “hunker down” and be secure in Him and in our relationships… and to trust Him.

    May God continue to give me, and us, courage to be fully engaged in whatever relationships, vocations, and tasks to which He is calling us. May He give us grace to be faithful in spite of fear and ambivalence. May we be fully obedient and have a vision much, much larger than ourselves that compels us toward Christ… and may our joy be made complete through that obedience as the Father’s love rests on us.

    Psalm 131
    A song of ascents. Of David.

    1My heart is not proud, O Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
    I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
    2But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
    like a weaned child with its mother,
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
    3O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

  • Reminds me of a guy named Lot we meet in Genesis 12. Abram’s nephew who chose to live in the plain near Sodom and eventually moved into that wicked city and became a judge at its gates.

    The last we hear of him is Genesis 19 where he gets drunk and has sex w/ his daughters, fathering their sons.

    2000 years pass before we get the final word on his legacy in 2 Peter 2:6-9. Lot was a “…righteous man tormented by the filthy lives of lawless men…”

    What we say we believe and how we live need to synch up. If we are tortured/tormented by the difference we need to do the uncomfortable(painful) and make the change to live differently.

    Routine/comfort are the natural paths all of us gravitate towards. It is not all bad. It does become evil when we value our routine/comfort over people, or God.

    Last week had to be gone overnight and grumped about my life being disrupted…revealed my need to get priorities straightend out…once again.


  • Something buried deep within me is the desire for excellence. I suppose some would call it perfectionism or just being plain “anal”. But what I struggle with is all the people around me who are persistently ambivalent. So much that I often think there is something seriously wrong with me, that it’s me that is way off.

    This is at our current church home on Sunday, at work, many of the interactions I have socially, and with family. I do have my wife and a handful of close friends who understand and are also desiring excellence as well.

    The irony is that I often have to become ambivalent to their ambivalence or I drive myself and everyone around me crazy.

    It is a daily battle in my mind and with my responses and actions toward others. I realize that I was (and can be) blind to what is truly going on in the world around me. We all are. Jesus understands, he dealt with this on an extreme level. The best I can do is lean into Him and be led by the Holy Spirit.

    The enemy of excellence and seeking God’s best is not bad. It’s “good enough”.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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