It's so familiar we don't always see it. Like a stop sign at an intersection, our lives get filled with familiar signs, foods, customs, people, places and traditions. I know what I'm familiar with...and I like those familiar things. I have sampled different foods and beverages and find that I like unflavored coffee made dark with a touch of cream in the morning. When I see a cheeseburger, tri-tip, or grits, I know what they will taste like...and I like those tastes. When I see a person whose name I know well and who likes me, I like spending time with him/her. I know the tv shows I go to on Hulu and those I avoid (animations and sci-fi among a few). There are authors I know and love reading and those I have not read, and probably won't
There is nothing wrong with the familiar. We come by the familiar after long work with the new and the strange. Some lessons we learned the hard way (hot spices or goat hearts). And the older I get, the more I like what I like because I like it (thank you very much!).
But today I began to reflect on "familiar" as a spiritual adjective: familiar hymns, familiar texts, familiar prayers, familiar spiritual routines and practices, familiar churches and traditions, familiar architecture, music and theology.
I'm blessed to be in a church that embraces a wider variety of music than I experienced or prefered. But gracious believers are teaching me to stretch out of my familiar patterns and try some new songs and styles, some new instruments and sounds. And it's good, not always familiar, but good. Moving across the country, pushed us out of familiar friendships honed over decades into brand new relationships here in this community. And it's good, not always familiar, but good. Why? Because I keep encountering a God who loves beyond my boundaries of familiar and invites me into new relationships, sounds, customs and friendships.
The danger of the familiar to me is that I can put the familiar on a pedestal and let it be my only lens for what I will try, experience, eat or relate to. If you are an outsider and not familiar, I am tempted to not let you in under any circumstances. When I get to worshiping only the familiar, God is not God, the familiar is.
So, as we enter this most tradition-weighted week in the Christian west, watch out for the familiar...and try something new!