There’s a phenomenon that tends to happen at the onset of large-scale disaster called “normalcy bias.” Some of you may have heard this term on the news when the big hurricanes are about to hit and people just hang out in their houses. Basically, the thought of what could happen is so extreme that it becomes unbelievable to a person, and he/she begins to think that it couldn’t possibly happen to them, so they just go on as if everything were normal. We see this type of behavior in many other areas as well…teenagers who think that their actions have no consequences, adults engaging in knowingly harmful behavior and then being surprised at its effects, countries that turn a blind eye toward horrendous human atrocities. The normalcy bias has, sadly, become the American way.
This phenomenon leeches out into our everyday lives and wreaks havoc on our spiritual growth. I want to explore with you a few different ways that normalcy bias absolutely ruins our faith. I’m going to skip OOC Wednesday tomorrow…I feel so strongly that God really wants to teach us all something here and I want to make sure that I give it enough space and time to come through to you. Before we begin, can I ask you a favor? I’d like for you to please stop now and pray that the Lord would make these words real and clear to you and that he gives me the appropriate words to share with you. This is so dear to me, my friends, because these realizations are some of the ways that God pushed me past some of the walls I had built and are also many times the hindrances that keep me from effectively applying the truths that He teaches me. Recognizing the normalcy bias in your faith life, in my experience, can be a key to finding the “narrow path” and staying on it. I want you to take these things with you today into your daily walk and see how they affect your belief in who God is and what He speaks to you. Normalcy bias, quite literally, makes us stupid.
There are so many facets of this that are hardcore truths, but I’d like to start today by just shaking the earth you stand on a little bit (for those of you North San Diegans, more than the booms from Camp Pendleton last night). If we are to combat normalcy bias in our lives, we have to TOTALLY SHRED the thought that our lives are anything but normal. Here are a few things to think about:
1. Right now, as we speak, you are sitting on top of a ball that is spinning around itself and another ball. It is not attached to a piece of fishing wire hanging from a crossbar. You, now, are perched on top of a huge floating orb, and you are not falling off. Nor are the people on the other side of it. Now, that just makes me want to grab on to a pole or something.
2. You have two balls inside of your head that are somehow wired to your brain allowing them two see. Somehow, the two balls can filter light in some crazy way that allows your brain to register images and colors of the things around you. That’s a mind-bender.
3. This fish exists:
4. So do these ones:
5. So does this bird of paradise (it puffs out flat like this to attract a mate):
6. The Hubble Telescope leads astrophysicists to estimate that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. This is the central region of the Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our solar system:
The same God who made billions of galaxies and the blobfish in the ocean’s darkest depths made YOU. Knows your name. Has numbered the hairs on your head. There is nothing normal about that at all.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psa 8:3-4). Forreals.
See, to understand how normalcy bias wrecks us, we can start with just the world around us. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The creation is SCREAMING His glory. He has created it ALL. He is MORE glorious than all of the heavens in their most illustrious grandeur and their teeniest, minutest details. We are so wrapped up in ourselves, in our feelings, in our circumstances that we lose sight of the utter majesty of it all. “Sarah said such-and-such.” “Can you believe what Rose did? How dare she.” “I can’t believe I had to do such-and-such. Ugh.” Ugh is right. We are so self-centered! Bleck!
Everything in creation screams glory to Him. From the fingerprints on my baby girl’s pinky to the far reaches of oblivion, God is master. Maker of all things. Can he not, then, handle your worries? Surely you can do a better job than he.
Destroying normalcy bias in our faith starts with shattering our illusions of control. We make poor gods. Contemplating his grandeur should make our heads hurt and our bodies fall flat to the ground in worship. Pressed down, even. As low as we can get.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
Tomorrow we’ll start looking at more of the specific ways that normalcy bias keeps us from fullness, but for now, just bathe yourself in his majesty. You are so loved.