In this social media age, events either get blown out of proportion or glossed over too quickly. The Great American Eclipse was one of those. How many people do you know who decided to watch the eclipse, either online or in person, just because it had been so hyped up by the media and their friends? And of those who watched it, how many got up as soon as it was over and immediately put it out of mind? It was the cool thing to do, so they did it . . . but once it was over, it was time to move on.
I think, as Christians, we should have a more thoughtful way of experiencing things – whether we observe them firsthand or merely read about them online. Social media is great for catching the headlines, but those headlines change so frequently that we have no time to really process the significance of what’s happening.
But if events actually have significance — after all, why else would we make a point to document them with parties and pictures and public posts? — then it stands to reason that it’s worth pausing to reflect on them after they occur.
Otherwise, to use an example from James 1, we’re like the person who looks in a mirror and then walks away, immediately putting out of mind whatever needs to be changed or freshened up. By our actions, we’re saying that the look — or the event — isn’t worthy of consideration. It has no meaning. So why do it in the first place?
We’ve lost the ability to slow down, and it’s only making life seem less meaningful.
Maybe it comes more easily to me as an introvert, but I think this fast-paced “keep up or die trying” attitude is both unhealthy and unwise.
It’s not good for our bodies to rush from activity to activity without any downtime in between. Stress builds, our body gets overworked, and eventually we get sick — or worse. Neither is it good for our minds to rush from topic to topic (or event to event) without taking time to stop and mull over what we learned, observed, felt, or experienced. Your brain can get overtaxed just like your body; it can get too stressed by jumping from experience to experience that it eventually just stops trying to process at all. You lose the benefit of learning from experience, and those hours spent attending events or reading books or listening to lectures become wasted.
As Christians, it’s also unwise. Proverbs tells us over and over to consider things, from the diligence of an ant to the effects of wisdom to the heart of a virtuous woman. It urges us to pause and reflect on truth, to observe other creatures and experiences and learn from their actions and results. It calls this wisdom: therefore, to neglect careful consideration of people and events must be the opposite of wisdom. In other words, foolishness.
Rushing on through life without reflecting on events, both major and minor, pushes us toward a lifestyle of indifference and insensitivity. No longer are we swayed by emotion when viewing astronomical phenomenon — we simply check it off our list and move on to the next task. We came, we saw, we left. No longer are we motivated to action (or introspection) by a good book or lecture; no longer are we inspired by watching a graduation ceremony or beautiful wedding; no longer are we able to quiet our minds and simply listen to the stillness.
Without pausing to reflect after events, like . . .
- glimpsing heavenly phenomenon,
- watching current events unfold,
- listening to the news,
- reading a book,
- watching a movie,
- listening to a sermon,
- changing a routine,
- spending a day outside,
- celebrating a milestone,
- grieving a loss,
- trying something new,
- or making a new acquaintance
. . . we don’t truly learn from those things. And if we stop learning, we stop growing.
The process of actively reflecting on experiences, asking ourselves what we felt about them and how they shifted our perspectives or understanding, is what makes events have meaning. To get a little more pointed, what’s the point of:
- attending a wedding or funeral if the main characters don’t mean anything to you?
- watching a solar eclipse if you don’t stop to wonder at the mysteries of the universe, or praise the grand Designer who planned it all?
- reading your Bible if you don’t meditate on its words and apply them to your own life?
- sitting through a sermon if you forget the main points as soon as you get home?
- listening to requests at prayer meeting if you don’t keep praying for them throughout the week?
I’m not saying you have to find deep meaning in every trip to the grocery store, every article you skim, or every headline you read. We don’t need to “read into” everything or find hidden layers of meaning in every word.
Just pay attention. Remember to stop and ponder things you find interesting, unusual, or confusing. Journal about them, find a friend to compare notes with, or write about your reflections on a blog. Whatever you do, don’t let your experiences be wasted: take time to process them adequately, and learn from them somehow.
Experiencing life is a good thing: but it’s what you do after the experience that makes the difference.
How do you take time to reflect after new experiences?