Recently I visited one of our UCA congregations in Hobart to run a workshop with the congregation after their Sunday morning service.
As I also had the opportunity to introduce myself during the service, and to speak briefly on the topic of the workshop, I thought I’d take some time before I made the journey south to reflect on the bible reading they would be using in church that day – to see if there were any connections between the reading, and my workshop.
It’s this story, from the gospel according to Luke. Hit the link and go read it. See what you think. Even if you’ve stumbled upon these musings and you’re not religious at all, take a moment to read it. Go on. I’ll wait here until you get back….. 😉
As I read the story I found myself nodding along with it. “Yep, ok, Jesus and his followers, see a funeral, Jesus feels sorry, brings the guy back to life, goes on his way. Typical Jesus story. No big deal.”
No big deal?
The more I let this story sit, the more I was struck by how absolutely outrageous it is. Jesus, his entourage, and a bunch of people chasing him (paparazzi I wonder?) encounter a funeral procession. Rather than watch respectfully as it passes, Jesus has the audacity to stop the procession, interrupt it, thread his way through to the bearers of the coffin and tell the dead man to wake up.
The familiarity some of us have with gospel stories like this one hide away the shocking-ness of what happens.
Put yourself in the place of the mother. Your only child is dead, you are racked and broken with grief, surrounded by friends and family. You are on the way to bury your child, when a stranger at the head of a pack of people interferes in this most devastating of moments. Even worse, he starts muttering about raising the child back to life.
I don’t know about you, but in that same situation I can imagine resorting to physical violence as this guy I don’t know, with a crowd egging him on, starts interfering in my family’s darkest moment.
I have to admit to being just a little saddened that my familiarity with stories like this one sometimes render me immune to their power, to the true nature of what is going on.
Of course it’s not only in regard to bible stories that this tendency can be seen. We don’t always notice the things that are closest to us. Our kids grow and change, little by little, and being so close we don’t notice.
We become so accustomed to the love and support of those closest to us, we fail to appreciate it.
Worse still, too much chocolate and eventually it loses its taste, and the rewards for eating it are gone.
Far worse than familiarity breeding contempt, is that familiarity can breed immunity, or indifference.
In my job, I’m a newcomer. I come from another place, another culture, and a totally different professional background. Even two years in, I still carry something of an outsider’s perspective as I visit new places, meet new groups of people, encounter new communities. That outsider’s perspective has served me well and has enabled me at times to ask questions that those familiar with the situation don’t always think to ask.
But little by little, I’m finding myself losing that perspective. I’m finding myself making assumptions, using jargon, holding expectations of behaviour, and so on. The comfort of familiarity brings immunity, indifference. The danger of losing that fresh perspective as I enter each new story is very real to me – and I don’t like it one bit.
How about you? Where is familiarity breeding immunity in your world?
H.G. Wells writes that “we are kept keen on the grindstone of pain and necessity”. Do we dare to stay sharp?