I’ve grown accustomed to His face

5 Sep

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
he world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!
Psalm 24:9-10

We eat, work, sleep, and even dream ministry.  We’ve studied, argued, philosophized (is that even a verb?), and read Scripture for days, weeks, and years.  Prayer is part of every meeting, event, and conversation.

How do we keep the greatest Treasure and truest Truth fresh?

Professor Henry Higgins

At the end of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle leaves Henry Higgins because she feels taken for granted.  Professor Higgins hasn’t quite figured out that he is in love with Eliza, and since this is a musical, he sings about his confusion:

I’ve grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I’ve grown accustomed to the tune
She whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns
Her ups, her downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in…

God is not Eliza.  He doesn’t leave when I take Him for granted.

But I can become so accustomed to His presence in the ever-present obligations of ministry, that I lose track of the Reason for all my efforts.  I leave Him.  Leave Him out of my thoughts, lose Him in the familiarity and routine.  The greatest One in all of creation becomes prosaic, taken for granted– still the Foundation, but pushed to the background.

Leading others to worship my Lord becomes perfunctory ritual.

Not on purpose!

Senseless

In fact, God designed our physical bodies this way – to become less sensitive to an ever-present stimulus (sensory adaptation).

“It’s the brain’s way of protecting itself from overload,” says Michael A. O’Mahony, a professor at the University of California, Davis. “When you sample a kind of food repeatedly – something salty, for example – the brain is getting the same message repeatedly. The mouth is saying, ‘Salt, salt, salt.’ And the brain is saying, ‘I know, I know. Now leave me alone until you have something different to tell me.'” In a sense, the brain turns down the volume on the salt message the mouth is sending it. —The New York Times

It almost seems that God set us up.

But before we get too judgmental, let’s hear O’Mahony’s solution to sensory adaption in smelling a flower:

“To avoid adaptation, move the flower away from your nose, so that you stop smelling it for a minute or so. Sniff at it again, and it should smell as powerful as it did the first time around.”

Sensory adaptation can be thwarted – by conscious effort.  I think God intentionally designed this protection mechanism into our physical and spiritual beings.  Our physical bodies are prevented from insanity by sensory overload, and our spirits are not allowed to become complacent.  A dynamic relationship with God takes effort– no coasting allowed.

————

Ready for Sunday

So how can I keep my relationship with God fresh and vibrant?  Especially in ministry?

I found help in Awakening Grace.  In the chapter on worship, authors Matt LeRoy and Jeremy Summers suggest reading a passage of Scripture seven times, pausing for reflection between each reading.

Following their advice, I read Psalm 24 several times (I lost count how many!)  As I read, two stressful challenges in my life continued to come to mind – and by the last reading I saw them compared to the King of Glory – the Lord strong and mighty!

Maybe the answer to escaping spiritual sensory adaptation is the opposite of the physical solution (to withdraw from the stimulus).  Maybe the answer to spiritual complacency is to immerse myself in Jesus more.

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One Response to “I’ve grown accustomed to His face”

  1. cathyhowie September 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I’ve lent my copy of AWAKENING GRACE out, so I don’t know the page number for the idea above. When I get my book back, I’ll fix that.

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