There are different kinds of drifting.
I remember hiring a houseboat with some friends a number of years ago. We were young and impetuous, and when we were told how to operate the houseboat we were barely listening.
For the most part driving the houseboat just seemed so easy. But a few days into our trip we tried to do something different to what we’d been doing. We parked the houseboat in a way that we hadn’t before. We were close to some trees on the shore and the river was running quickly.
Now in a houseboat when you want to reverse its all fine if you want to go down stream. You reverse into the current and then take off with it. But if you want to go upstream you have to reverse with the current and then take off going into it.
Without doubt we had been given instructions on how to do it, but we’d neglected them. We had heard the bloke talk but we had not listened!
So, when we began to reverse, we got caught in the current and the houseboat began drifting out of control. We were moving backwards at an increasing rate. We had ignored what we had been told and now we were in danger.
In the end we crashed our houseboat into some gum trees overhanging the river and we ripped off everything on the upper deck including the canopy, antennas, poles, eskies, and the outdoor setting.
Overconfidence, however, isn’t the only way to begin drifting.
You can also start to drift by being slack. I’m not sure if you’ve ever pulled a boat up out of the water and onto the sand and then left it there for a while. If you’re not careful and if you forget to tie it up, the tide will come in and the gentle movement of the waves will cause the boat to drift out into the sea.
Now, it’s not as if the boat decided to drift out into the water. It kind of just happens. But it happens because no one is paying attention, and then all of a sudden you come back from your walk and the boat is floating 100m out into the water.
So you can either drift quickly by being overconfident or you can drift slowly over time through inattention. But, either way, they’re both drifting and they’re both dangerous.
In life we encounter similar challenges. We can be overconfident or distracted/inattentive.
Nevertheless, the answer to drifting in life is simple.
The Author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that in light of God the Son’s matchless brilliance detailed in chapter 1 of Hebrews ‘we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away’ (Hebrews 2:1).
Sometimes I look for nuanced answers but the Author of the letter to the Hebrews simply tells us to pay attention to what we’ve heard. He’s telling us to read the Bible and think about it.
For the Author of the letter to the Hebrews it is paying attention to what we’ve been told that prevents disaster. If we had payed attention to what we had been told on the houseboat we would have averted disaster. Similarly, if someone is watching a boat on the sea shore it’s almost impossible for it to drift away.
That means that each day we should read the Bible and pay attention to what we’re reading. This is the antidote for drifting.
Nick Arundell is married to Joy, and attends Darebin Presbyterian Church. He is currently studying theology at PTC