Framers in the construction business talk about the discomfort they feel the first few times they climb a rickety scaffold and begin nailing lumber twenty-five feet off the ground. Until they “get their legs” these workers are timid, shaky, and uncomfortable that far in the air. “But,” they say, “if you do it long enough, you’ll get used to it.”
So much so that after a while they really don’t give it much thought.
I guess that makes sense. The body has a way of adapting to the harshest of environments. Repeated exposure tends to lessen the effect of adverse conditions. Over time people will become comfortable in the most miserable of circumstances. Working at the landfill. Cleaning up at the slaughter-house. Driving a manure spreader. Watching soccer.
Sometimes the progression is slow, but it happens. The unbearable becomes uncomfortable, and eventually unnoticeable.
Just as the body has a way of adapting with exposure, the heart has a way of acclimatizing, as well. The conscience can be anesthetized. The soul can numbed. Repeated subjection to “worldly things” desensitizes us to corruption. If we’re not careful, eventually we’ll be unfazed by the unthinkable. In his book, The Sacred Romance, John Eldredge suggests that the worst thing to happen to humanity was not the Fall.
It’s that we’ve gotten used to it.
A Prayer Request
In Psalm 17 David asks, like many times before, for protection from his enemies. But in verse 14 he asks for another type of shielding. He asks for protection from men of the world whose portion is this life (MOTWWPITL). Just as the body adapts over time to aversive environments, he knows his soul will whither or harden if allowed to marinate in the mindset of those who lack an eternal perspective. He knows that if he gives these men access to his heart, his values will erode and his character will suffer. MOTWWPITL are a bit like raunchy movies, some video games, and Facebook stalking.
Exposure to them scratches the rebellious itch but doesn’t bring the guilt that comes with actually engaging sketchy behavior. But David realizes the second-hand smoke of enjoying the stories of MOTWWPITL is just as cancerous as taking a drag. He doesn’t want his heart to be affected by their twisted sense of morality.
Who knows, some day he may think that sleeping with another man’s wife then having him murdered might be ok.
MOTWWPITL affect our thinking, our decisions, and what drives our hearts, but they aren’t ominous or threatening. They don’t drive creeper vans or hang out in dark alleys. They don’t come across as slackers or losers. In fact, they look like you and me (with better hair and teeth) — only they just seem to have it together. They can be gregarious and engaging, care-free and heroic, connected and cool. They look like poster boys for the good life.
But they aren’t life-giving.
MOTWWPITL are driven by power, reputation, conquests, and materialism. They live for the moment and try to make things happen. But for some reason, they make these qualities seem real attractive.
How Does this Look in the Mirror?
I can get so caught up in the aura of MOTWWPITL that it’s also hard to see what happens inside of me. But if I start to pay attention, I’ll notice a shift. I’ll realize how much more I think about stuff and how I wish I had the money to buy more stuff or better quality stuff. I won’t believe that new stuff has a short shelf life, but trust that the sugar high of new toys will last for all 72 payments.
I’ll see people for their utility or influence rather than eternal souls made in the image of God.
I’ll worry about image and perception.
I’ll become less grateful.
I’ll begin to value intelligence over wisdom, status over state, connections over relationships, image over character, and contacts over friends.
I’m less grateful for what I have and feel like the kid who can’t enjoy a single scoop of ice cream because the guy sitting next to him has a double.
I’ll actually entertain the thought that the fruit of this world has greater value than the fruit of the Spirit.
And, if you’re not careful, you will, too.
Immerse yourself in late-night infomercials and before long you’ll move from skeptic to miracle bamboo pillow owner. Hang out with men of this world whose portion is this life and you will notice subtle shifts in your perspective, beliefs and behavior.
What can you do to keep your soul from drifting?
Ask yourself these questions:
What ear-tickling, ego-appealing, soul-numbing conversations are you gravitating towards?
Who or what are you giving access to your heart? What compromises have you made as a result?
What lies about the good life and contentment are you telling yourself?
Are you clear who the MOTWWPITL are in your world?
What are you going to do about it?