I have seen some truly wonderful things working as a paramedic the last three years. My favorite example is when I delivered a baby in the back of my ambulance last year. Any terror I felt in the beginning was quickly dwarfed by the sheer panic I felt when the baby girl decided to come out breech. By God’s grace, she entered this life pink, kicking, and screaming. About a month ago I heard from the father. She’s healthy, happy, and loved.
I wish I had more stories like that. Unfortunately, many of them hail from the other spectrum of human emotion. I still feel my stomach drop a little when I learn that a patient I brought to the ED has died. There are more stories, but suffice it to say that I’ve seen some truly terrible things.
In order to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly, I have found a little switch at the back of my brain that flips my emotions off for a little bit. It’s like a power surge protector. Things getting a little too real? “Shut it down! Shut it all down!” It’s an effective tool that allows me to not only do my job, but enjoy it. However, after coping like this for a few years now, I’ve begun to notice something about myself.
Sometimes, the little switch doesn’t flip back on.
I don’t think you have to be a paramedic to blow the breaker on this little switch. I can’t tell you how many young mothers, overworked husbands, and distracted students I’ve talked to who feel completely overwhelmed; like they need to shut down a little bit of themselves in order to survive. Choosing a degree of numbness makes our days possible. While I get it, I’m saddened to see cynicism dulling our hearts — my heart — to wonder.
Advent is here. Glorious Advent — one of the best times of year to be completely filled with awe. But what do we do when, no matter how many times we toggle the switch, our desire to marvel, or even care, doesn’t turn back on? How do we come to the age-old story grateful and amazed instead of distracted and numb?
I struggle with this year round, not just at Advent. Sometimes I feel like if I just had something novel or had a new take on old truth then that would solve my problems. I mentioned this to a wise friend of mine, and she said something that has always stuck with me:
“Maybe we keep hearing the same things over and over again because God knows how much we need it.”
God is a big proponent of repetition and remembrance. Deuteronomy is nothing but a call to Israel to remember where they came from and to whom they belonged. Every new king of Israel was to write his own copy of the Law and read it aloud to the people every year. God mandated yearly festivals to help his people remember. Of the Law, He said to bind it as a frontal between their eyes. The very tassels on their clothes were a call to remember. In the New Testament, Jesus gives us communion and says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
But how? How do we remember when casual numbness makes our mile-long to do lists and reconciliation with the horrors of the world possible? How do we find things wonderful again?
I believe it’s as simple as telling yourself the truth on purpose.
I don’t need new truth to bring me to my knees in adoration; I need old truth set on repeat. The old truth that God looked at this broken world in mercy instead of justice, and that mercy compelled Him to give the gift of Himself. It’s the old truth that Mary’s baby became humanity’s Savior, rescuing those who believe to spend eternity with Him. Maybe more important than repeating these things is being engaged while they play. Even when I’m tired, or it’s easier to shut down, or I don’t want to be vulnerable. Even when I don’t feel like it — especially when I don’t feel like it. I’ve found in the moments when I purposefully choose to do anything I don’t want to (ie: run, clean, adult, etc) it becomes easier with time. Then there comes a day when I realize that my continuous and purposeful choices have become blessings instead of banes.
Why do we expect the things of God to be different?
So, this Advent, by the grace of God, why don’t we join the hills, floods, rock, hills, and plains in repetition of the sounding joy? Why don’t we tell ourselves the truth on purpose. I think we’ll find it finally flips that little switch, filling us with wonder again.