For those of you that get to spend any time with us, you know that the Salt ‘n Light Team is basically one big experiment in the concept of “groupthink.” If you want a nickname to stick, just say it enough times and it probably will. You want a joke to go from being a one-time, low-laughter flop to a HILARIOUS inside joke that will last multiple summers? Just repeat it over and over again and soon enough, your wish will be granted. And if you think for a second you didn’t like your meat still bleeding then you haven’t spent a summer with a Dincher, Bingham, or really any other S’NL team member. The truth is, we spend so much wonderful time together that our patterns and practices tend to mold together to create one cohesive conglomeration of 21 unique personalities.
In addition to “groupthink,” I’ve come up with another word for this phenomenon: The Syndrome. This verbage was created on a trip to Harry Potter World (or WWHP Smackdown) with Christie Miller and Emily Bingham. While in line for the interactive Harry Potter ride (which was probably the best ride I’ve ever been on), we noticed that there was a really long line of people waiting on the right side of this dark hallway, while the left side was entirely clear. My first thought was “Oh, the left side must be closed, so I should probably wait with these other million buffoons.” But then I decided to explore and just started walking up the left side. Turns out, everyone was waiting in line together simply because… everyone was waiting in line together. The left line worked perfectly and got us to the front of the ride in no time, but people just assumed they had to wait because everyone else was: thus, the birth of The Syndrome.
But The Syndrome can describe any pattern that seems to ring true for a number of people in a certain situation. Take Grad Party Syndrome: You are about to enjoy an exciting afternoon game of grad-party-volleyball, so you slip off your flip flops and head out to the court. Before you know it, you’ve eaten dinner, went swimming, and had one of those deep, fire-pit conversations all whilst barefoot. When it’s finally time to leave, you get up to look for your footwear and it is PITCH BLACK. Now those thonged sandals could be literally anywhere and you have to borrow your friend’s one working flashlight to scour the yard, until you finally find them soaked in evening dew (why does that even exist?!). But it happens to the best of us, hence, The Syndrome.
Usually, The Syndrome is harmless; a mere observation of the patterns of a group of people. However, there is one syndrome that I find extremely frustrating: Third Day Syndrome. No, I don’t mean the Contemporary Christian lovechild of Nickelback and Keith Urban. Third Day Syndrome refers to the rollercoaster of emotions that takes place after coming home from an awesome ministry event, whether that be a game-filled Fall Retreat, a life-changing mission trip, or an awe-inspiring IMPACT (yes, this is an obvious shout out).
People, something happens when we spend time on these events. God moves, teaches, speaks, molds, inspires, and challenges. He’s really doing these things all along, but something about being away helps us see them a bit more. But then we get home. And time keeps moving. The progression of time looks something like this:
Day 1: We are so filled with the love of God that Facebook literally can’t handle the amount of song lyrics, bible verses, and buddy pics we are putting up. An entire 24 hours is devoted to thinking about the event we just came home from, and man does it feel good. #nostalgia
Day 2: We wake up refreshed, thankful that we are no longer sleeping on the wet ground (there goes that dew again), a midget-portioned bunk bed, or a cement gymnasium floor. A smile comes across our face as we think about that funny thing that happened to our youth leader that one day. Then a friend calls and we spend the rest of the day watching Law and Order and eating Funyuns. #summer
Day 3: SCHOOL STARTS IN 2 WEEKS!?! AHHH bandcampfootballpracticebacktoschoolshoppingkeyclubmeetingssummerreadingschedulingetcetcetcetcetcetcetc. #whatsIMPACT
By Day 3, we are completely re-immersed in the ways of our old life. And it’s really no one’s fault. Real life can’t function on a schedule that includes four hours of Mafia under a canopy tent. The truth is: Impact, Fall Retreats, Mission trips are NOT real life. They can’t be. But that doesn’t make them any less REAL.
Perhaps a short story: On Monday (Day 1 if you’re following the above schedule), Bing and I went to get professional massages. For three years we’ve talked about how perfect it would be to splurge and do this immediately following Impact since we’re as tired as… a post-Impact Salt ‘n Light team. It was very fantastic, and that’s all you need to know. In fact, I was so relaxed that I had to take a nap as soon as I got home. Great, right? Right. UNTIL. One hour later, I was required to wake up and leave for the beach. I hadn’t unpacked from Impact nor packed for the beach, so there was going to be a few things I needed to do before leaving. I budgeted about 15 minutes, since really I’d just be throwing a few articles of clothing into a bag. All was well until I went to get up off the couch and… NOTHING HAPPENED. Instantly fearing that I was paralyzed, I began whining like an infant to anyone who could hear me. Apparently, every muscle in my body was so relaxed that I couldn’t seem to move any of them. I’m usually terrible at waking up, but this was an entirely different scenario. I felt like I couldn’t. Even though the beach was awaiting me, I was left… paralyzed.
Isn’t this how it is when we experience something great? For four days at IMPACT, God moved in “amazingly crazy” ways (think the awesomeness of my massage). When I came home, I was so appreciative of what had taken place and so thankful that things just felt… better. But give it a few hours and I was stuck. Though what had taken place during those four days was so fantastic, it didn’t seem to matter because I couldn’t do anything with it. Or let’s say, I didn’t do anything with it. Could I have physically gotten up off of the couch? YES. But the weight of the the world made it seem like my massage was actually not as good as I had once thought. That the awesome experience I had was really nothing special, after all.
THIRD. DAY. SYNDROME.
The world is going to try to tell you that what you experienced isn’t really all that special. The busyness of your schedule is going to try to keep you from thinking about that powerful worship service or that intimate conversation you had around the campfire. Life is going to tell you that it’s not quite as important as you once thought. Today is the third day.
But you know what Jesus did on the third day? HE ROSE AGAIN. Like a boss. Jesus decided that the amazingly crazy things that happened during his ministry on Earth weren’t quite enough. He could’ve stayed in that grave and let life go on without him. But instead, he left the tomb, spoke to his friends, and continued the RIDICULOUS work that God sent him to do: redeeming the world. And he has never stopped since.
Today is the third day. Today is a day that you make a choice, just like every other day from this point forward. Is what you experienced just something that belongs in the recesses of your mind, the memory card of your camera? Or did you WAKE UP? Did you see something, hear something, learn something, live something that is going to make an actual difference in your life?
Because Jesus wouldn’t wait in the long line at Harry Potter World. He wouldn’t lose his flip flops in the grass. He wouldn’t stay quiet on the third day. Jesus laughs in the face of The Syndrome. And so can we