On Friday, I read an article by Shaun Groves entitled “Shock and Awe” that got me thinking.
You see, through mission trips I’ve been blessed to be part of over the past four years, I’ve been in the situation Shaun describes. Witnessing immense needs for the first time, tears coming in uncontrollable fashion, shocked at the images unfolding in front of me. Struggling to get my mind around the situation. In those very moments, I’ve been instantly changed, knowing that I can never look at my privileged life quite the same again.
I’ve had similar experiences on the opposite ends of things.
Over the past four years, I’ve also had another cool opportunity, one that as a baseball fan (and particularly a Royals fan), I’ve absolutely LOVED… batting practice at Kaufmann stadium. Stepping onto the field for the first time brought an instant smile to my face. Hitting baseballs back at Willie Wilson? Perma-grin.
The commonality between these two things, aside from the fact they happened just a week apart?
I’ve had the opportunity to experience both of these things multiple times.
The “shock” of the experience was gone when I returned. What was extraordinary became somewhat normal. The emotions of the experiences are somewhat duller each time.
Shaun describes this better than me:
Shock is the product of surprise, of not knowing, of only hearing and studying without actually experiencing. But we can’t be shocked by the same thing twice. Never again.
I know I use this phrase a lot, but “what is it about humanity” that causes us to so easily change our perspective towards amazing, impactful experiences, and normalize them?
When I returned to the mission field in 2011 (and especially 2012), I took almost in stride things that would have turned me to emotional jelly the first time around. I was every bit as impacted by the experience, but the emotions simply weren’t as strong. The impacts hit me at a more practical level than an emotional one.
There was less, “I can’t believe what I’m seeing”, and more “what can I do to help?”
My return to “the K” in 2011? Every bit as enjoyable as the first time, but more “normal”. Less giddy happiness over shagging fly balls in the outfield and hearing stories of baseball past from John Mayberry, and more “it’s so cool to be able to share this with my friend.”
In both cases, perspective had changed.
In all reality, that may be the norm, and it may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s still a danger I fear for all of us… that the extraordinary becomes normal. That we lose our sense of wonder, amazement, shock, conviction… whatever strong emotion we feel when God grants us experiences that blow our minds.
I know it’s been said before… if we always lived life on the mountaintop we’d be on a plateau.
I just pray we can all truly appreciate those mountaintops to the full extent we should.
For that matter, ALL of life’s moments.
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