Here's two often-repeated situations at the library:
1) A child comes to the circulation desk to check out, placing a stack of series books on the counter. It's more often little Johnny with a stack of Goosebumps than little Janie with Junie B. Jones, OR
2) A parent asks me for advice in what else his or her child can read, because the child is only reading fill-in-the-blank series.
Can you guess the problem? Comfort. We are creatures of habit. We hate stepping out of our comfort zones. Well, maybe I shouldn't generalize. But I know I am. While there are some really good series out there (ask me if you want to know), the majority of them recycle the same plot, simply changing characters names and the setting and antagonist just enough to make it sound like a different story. Reluctant readers, and even just younger readers in general (there are exceptions), find a series they like and stick with it till they've read every book before moving on. Sometimes, parents are just so thrilled their kid is reading that they don't care what it is. And while I am similarly excited to see little Johnny with a stack of 10 books to check out, I know that there are much better books... more challenging books... out there. Ideally, series are what we call a stepping stone: giving a younger reader the comfort to go the next step up.
Where is this going? I've just been recognizing (again) that I am a creature of habit when it comes to my faith. It's so easy to stay in my comfort zone. Like a child stuck reading a series, I don't intentionally seek out a challenge. Hopefully I'm open to an opportunity or challenge if it presents itself, but I don't intentionally seek it out. The book I'm reading, The Irresistable Revolution, was talking about that fact... we have very comfortable lives. It's kind of awesome how God works (God... awesome?? Go figure!) Because I can remember specific times in my life when, knowing my tendencies, I even just ask God to give me a heart that's unsatisfied with comfort. That's more of a prayer to change my attitude or my openness to change or challenge. Other times (fewer times), I have been so dissatisfied with my complacency that I ask God to shake me of my comfort... so that I'm forced to rely on Him completely.
Well, since my God is a faithful God, I can't remember a time when this prayer hasn't been answered. The first type (open my eyes/change my attitude) is more subtle, but the second ("shake me") usually results in some big potentially life change. Not to make it sound like God just gives us whatever we want, but He does have a sense of humor ;) Seriously, I think God honors our hearts to grow more dependent on Him and more in His likeness. I remember the second type of prayer being on my heart toward the end of the past summer and He delivered! Knocked me on my backside... I prayed for a challenge and within a day or two, He answered! Of course, it wasn't the challenge I was imagining. But you know what? In struggle, in pain... there is beauty. There is growth. There are blessings beyond your imagination. And most importantly, there is a God who wants to take you out of your comfort zone. It's not a once and done stepping out, but a constant decision. It's recognizing when you are in a rut or simply too comfortable and wanting something more. Most times, I haven't realized that's where I'm headed until I'm there. That's not to say comfort's bad, but think of what we could be missing out on if we just stick to one "series"?