Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


The Chains of Traditionalism

In a moment of personal reflection I realized that the older I get, the less I like things around me to change. I enjoy thinking that I’m flexible and eager to try new things, but that’s just not true.

In church I like to sit in the same place every Sunday. I get a little nervous when I can’t find my favorite deodorant at the grocery store. When Husband mows the lawn, I am slightly uneasy that it’s back and forth one week, diagonal the next. After weeks of looking at hairstyles in magazines and online, I always ask my beautician to cut my hair just like she did last month, the time before that, and every four to six weeks for the past five years.

The truth is, I prefer to hold tightly to my preferences, our household traditions, and even the rituals and traditions of the church. Perhaps that’s why I was slightly offended when Husband came home from a meeting and insisted on reading aloud a meditation by Chuck Swindoll.

He begins with “Are you open to change? People who make a difference can be stretched, pulled, pushed, and changed. You heard it from me: traditionalism is an old dragon… so never stop fighting it.”

I felt myself bristle. Husband kept reading.

“Let’s be careful to identify the right opponent. It isn’t tradition per se; it’s traditionalism. I’m not trying to be petty, only accurate. The right kind of traditions give us deep roots—a solid network of reliable truth in a day when everything seems up for grabs.

“Among such traditions are those strong statements and principles that tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty create frightening waves of change driven by winds of doubt.”

Swindoll went on to list “believing in the authority of holy scripture, knowing and loving God, bowing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, committing ourselves to others, and becoming people of genuine encouragement,” as valuable absolutes. They “keep us from feeling awash in a world of relativism and uncertainty.”

He wasn’t challenging the basic doctrines of Christianity. Swindoll was speaking to the entrapment of traditionalism, meaning an attitude that resists change, adaptation, or alteration.

“It’s holding fast to a custom or behavior that is being blindly and forcefully maintained.” (Like only mowing the lawn going back and forth, never diagonal?) “It is being suspicious of the new, up-to-date, the different. It is finding one’s security, even identity, in the familiar and therefore opposing whatever threatens that.”

Then he got to the point. “And if you’ll allow me one more, it is substituting a legalistic system for the freedom and freshness of the Spirit—being more concerned about keeping rigid, manmade rules than being flexible, open to creativity and innovation.”

Jesus repeatedly confronted the Jewish aristocracy because their adherence to their own rules and traditions had become more important than compassion and common sense. They criticized him for healing on the Sabbath. He overturned the money changers’ tables because selling animals had become more important than true repentance. The High Priest condemned Jesus to death because he didn’t fit their rabbinical model.

Swindoll concludes by saying, “Believe me, there are plenty of people around who feel it is their calling to tell others what to do and what to say. They are self-appointed wing-clippers who frown on new ways and put down high flight… Whoever decides to soar must first fight through the flatland fog that hangs heavy over the swamp of sameness.”


Maybe it’s time for a new hairstyle and a lawn creatively mowed in curly-Q’s.