The Human Need to Oversimplify
I’ve been asking what God does all day (and all night). I said last time that an obvious answer from the Christian perspective is that God is busy making disciples. And I urged you to focus on what that means in our daily lives if we’re submitting to that process of being remade. Here’s where I was going with that: I think we Christians tend to miss a vital piece of the disciple-making process just because we oversimplify the story of human life.
I know people who are incapable of summarizing. Perhaps you do, too. If you ask them about their day, they tell you everything: what they ate, how well it digested, everything they saw and felt while this was happening, every acquaintance they crossed paths with today and every conversation they had, complete with everything “he said” and “she said.”
Most of us don’t have the patience to listen to that kind of an answer. When we ask people, “How was your day?” we don’t want to relive their day with them; we want them to get to the point. And if some people aren’t any good at doing that, it illustrates an important principle: that real life doesn’t come neatly packaged. We do the packaging. We do it while it’s happening (paying attention to certain sights and sounds while tuning others out), and we do it after the fact (telling our friends and loved ones only those parts of our day that seem in retrospect to have been important). We’re constantly filtering our experience. We have to do so. If we didn’t, we’d never “get to the point.” We’d never be able to make sense out of events, and therefore we’d be incapable of making rational choices. We’d be paralyzed by the details.
So…. oversimplification of our daily experience is a necessary human trait. It’s a survival mechanism. We can’t just “take it all in.” As we parents are constantly reminding our children, we’ve got to focus. And that means we’ve got to deliberately tune out most of the things going on around us, recognize what needs our attention at each moment, and concentrate exclusively on that.
(Some of you are good at mult-tasking. If so, blessed are you. I’m not so blessed. But even you multi-taskers have to focus on a limited range of stimuli at any particular time. Your range is just a bit wider than mine, that’s all.)
Are you with me so far? If so, then what I’m about to say may sound contradictory. We Christians tend to have a severely limited view of what God is doing in our lives all day because we greatly oversimplify our daily experience. Granted, we have to do so in order to live. But in our moments of prayer and meditation, when we step outside the bounds of time and make ourselves available to the Eternally Present, oversimplification blinds us.
This may sound very philosophical to you, but it’s actually just common sense. I’ll give you some concrete examples in my next post. But for today I invite you to consider this: Is it possible that your daily experience is much more complex than you have realized? And could it be that God is vitally involved in that complexity?