Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day-to-Day Normalness of Life

By David Horn, ThD
Director, The Ockenga Institute

Everything changed. In little more than a month on that barren, floating shoal, their perspective on their lives was so radically altered. What they valued most in their lives up to that point--the tiniest pleasures that were their largest preoccupations, thought lives filled with what they considered “normal” things--all so quickly and unalterably became of so little consequence. In a relative moment in time, the “stuff” of their lives became the basic, unadorned preoccupations of survival. So little mattered of their old lives; so much rested on a new point of view.
If you haven’t read Alfred Lansing’s gripping story of Sir Ernest Shackelton’s ill-fated 1914 expedition to Antartica, I highly recommend it. It is a survival story of 29 men set adrift for five months on ice packs after their ship was crushed by ice, only to then suffer through a 1,000 mile voyage in an open boat across the stormiest ocean on the globe. It is a magnificent picture of persons pulled away from everyday normal life and forced to live and think in radically different ways.
Short of subjecting ourselves artificially to some form of fringe experience, I wonder what it takes for us to break through the day-to-day “normalness” of our lives? How do we who seek to bring freshness and new perspective to those to whom we minister keep our own lives fresh? How do the things that really matter from God’s perspective become our common, consuming passions?

I certainly don’t claim to know the answer to these questions, but if Shackelton’s story is of any help, it is that none of these men would have changed on their own. To a man, all of them were relatively comfortable with the make-up of their own lives. It was only as they were forced to change that they did change.

Certainly this is what is behind the joy we are all called to consider in the first chapter of the book of James. God makes trials and temptations part of the warp-and-wolf of our lives because He knows that we don’t have it in us to change on our own. Our faith grows, not from within, but from without as God works in and through the circumstances of our lives.

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