The Case against Vanilla

Genesis 12:1-8; Joshua 14:1-15; Psalm 33:3

I cannot imagine anything more boring and less desirable than being poured into the mold of predictability as I grow older. Few things interest me less than the routine, the norm, the expected, the status quo. Call it the rebel in me, but I simply cannot bear plain vanilla when life offers so many other colorful and stimulating flavors. A fresh run at life by an untried route will get my vote every time—in spite of the risk. Stay open-minded for a moment and I’ll try to show you why.

John Gardner once pointed out that, by their mid-thirties, most people have stopped acquiring new skills and new attitudes in any aspect of their lives. Does that jolt you? Stop and think, you who are over thirty. How long has it been since you acquired a new skill? How many brand-new attitudes have you adopted—personal, political, social, spiritual, financial—since you turned thirty?

Let’s probe a little deeper. Do you drive to work the same way every morning? Are you compelled to approach a problem the identical way every time? Does a maverick (even wild) idea challenge you or cause you to retreat into the security of your shell? Have you lost that enthusiastic zest for discovery and adventure?

Say, you’re older than you thought. You’re older than you ought! God has arranged an “abundant life” for you, but it’s slipping past. You’re fast becoming addicted to the narcotic of predictability . . . and the longer you persist, the greater will be the pain of withdrawal.

Living and learning are linked; so are existing and expiring. Each day delivers a totally new set of circumstances and experiences. The same hours and minutes which capture the wonder of a child may deepen the rut of an adult.

Ever watched a preschooler’s approach to life? His constant curiosity and probing inquisitiveness make every day completely fresh and exciting. To him, learning is natural; to the adult, it’s a nuisance.

“Well,” you rationalize, “I’m just too set. That’s the way I am . . . you can’t change me.” Who can’t change you? God? Like Israel of old, this sort of thinking puts limits on the Lord, discounting His power and denying His presence. Settling down to the hum-drum, bland diet of tasteless existence is a sure invitation for slackness and indolence to invade and plague your dwelling.

“So how do I break out?” you ask. “I guess I could row to Hawaii in a four-foot dinghy or schedule a February vacation in Iceland . . . maybe the family could tackle Everest this summer. . . .”

Unnecessary! Life abounds with everyday problems needing transformation into creative projects. Try taking life by the throat and achieve mastery over a few things that have haunted and harassed you long enough. Or—how about a course at a nearby school this year . . . or a serious study of some subject all on your own. Why not broaden yourself in some new way to the greater glory of God?

Remember our old friend, Caleb? He was eighty-five and still growing when he gripped an uncertain future and put the torch to the bridges behind him. At a time when the ease and comfort of retirement seemed predictable, he fearlessly faced the invincible giants of the mountain. Read Joshua 14 again. There was no dust on that fella. Every new sunrise introduced another reminder that his body and rocking chair weren’t made for each other. While his peers were yawning, Caleb was yearning.

Every one of us was poured into a mold . . . but some are “moldier” than others. If you are determined and work quickly, you can keep the concrete of predictability from setting rock-hard up to your ears. Then again, if the risks and potential dangers of sailing your ship in the vast oceans of uncertainty make you seasick, you’d better anchor yourself near the shallow shore of security. Concrete sinks fast, you know.

Taken from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1983, 1994, 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.