Over the years I think we’ve all become a little numb to how dependent we are on new experiences, especially folks my age-ish and younger.
Think about it:
How long have you held your current job?
When was the last time you switched a connection to a community?
When was the last time you stuck with something longer than a few years?
How often do you try new things?
How frequently do you dream about changing things in your life?
Every year, month, and day there are new products for us to consume, new items to taste, and new places to travel. We map out our calendar and fill it with new destinations and new experiences. When Alie and I want to go out for dinner we’re often drawn to something new and different. When a new show that I follow gets released, I usually watch it within a few days. While there is nothing wrong with new things and while I’ve got as much wanderlust as anyone, I think there is a danger when our constant attraction to novelty bleeds into the deeper parts of our being.
In my line of work I interact with people at various stages of life and it seems that this cultural force has affected most of us beyond products, podcasts, and places to eat- I think our magnetic movement towards novelty has changed how we do relationship with people.
The story plays out over and over. We open a new door in our lives, excited about a new job, a new romantic interest, or a new community. Then the high wears off and we become restless. As the buzz of newness fades, other things begin to surface and we start to notice the effort required to remain consistent, the flaws of this new thing or place, and our own insecurities or struggles.
Instead of using this moment as a chance to learn, grow, and face these more challenging dimensions, we pull the shoot and peace out. We bounce to the next new experience, selfie-worthy location, romantic interest, or church community and are pleasantly surprised by the chemical buzz of novelty that we find there again. It fills the hole and covers up some of what’s underneath.
See, I’m beginning to think that while novelty has it’s place, our pursuit of its intoxicating force keeps us from what we are really longing for. What is it that we’re longing for underneath it all?
At least in part: Intimacy, connection, and belonging.
That’s what my limited but fruitful years working with people on a “soul” level has pointed me to. We’re all aching to know and to be known, to love and be loved, and to find home. Marketers and software engineers are experts at hot-wiring this human longing and sucking us into an endless cycle of novelty. They make the best, most polished, sexy menus but leave us never actually enjoying food that nourishes. And as our tolerance increases, our pursuit is fueled by an abundance of opportunities to consume new things. Meanwhile our hunger pangs simultaneously increase and are also buried further down in our being.
I’m convinced that we long for community and intimacy at the deepest levels, but we’re held captive by these cultural forces. I can’t tell you how many folks have come to our church (after stints at other churches), super excited at first, but once the honey moon wears off, end up drifting to the next new thing and then repeat the cycle. I’ve seen it over in over in the way people do friendships, careers, and romance. To combat our addiction to novelty requires intentionality and effort. We’ve got to call it out and work towards change.
See, there is nothing efficient about intimacy.
In many ways it’s an antonym to the word novelty.
It happens after the honeymoon wears off and we let our guard down. It happens when we stick with something long enough to let others see our flaws and as we begin to notice those of others. It’s in those moments that we may want to run for the door, but if we catch this impulse, we should try our best to counter-culturally override it. On the other side of the novelty buzz is a slow and steady depth and richness. It takes time, effort, and faithfulness. It requires us to invest in these relationships in a way that cultivates the soil of being known- warts and all. Though it’s not always sexy or easy, my experience tells me that this is what we truly desire.
If things rings true for you in some way, find some relationships that give you life and stick with them. They will surely get boring and stale at some point, but keep going. Years later you’ll see the slow and steady fruit begin to bear in your life. Decades after that an emerging sense of connection and belonging may surface in your soul, and you wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.