People Experiencing Reorientation May Seem “Out of It”

By Keith Miller | December 14, 2009

Keith, our teenaged son went to a summer camp a normal, interesting kid who was only interested in football (and, I assume, sex).  But when he got home last week he was a religious freak, spouting Bible verses out of context with his eyes shining like his team had just won state.  I’m a church going Christian and we’ve prayed he’d do the same.  But as you once said to me, about another matter, we must have “over-prayed.”  What can we do?

Grapeleaves

A funny thing happened years ago at our house.  One of my daughters (as a teen) was learning to drive.  She had always been aware of where we were and where we are going when we are out driving.  I am not.  I often drive for blocks past a turn-off, with my mind a thousand miles away.  This daughter was the one who often sat beside me and whispered, “This next block is our turn, Daddy.”  She knew our town with her eyes closed.

But when she got behind the wheel for the first time in traffic, it was as if we were in a new city:  “Do I turn here, Daddy . . . Is this the right street?”

I was amazed and thought at first she was teasing me.  But then I saw that she was not.  A town that she had known like the back of her hand as a passenger became a strange and foreign place when she became responsible for the minute-by-minute decisions of driving.  She had to look for a whole new set of objects and distances—cars backing out of driveways, dogs and children starting for the street, vehicles at intersections, all kinds of street signs, in addition to everything behind her in the rearview mirror.   With all of these new things on which to focus—which had heretofore been only a part of the background—she felt as if she were in a different world.

I started to tell her to “Pay attention to what you are doing!”  Then I realized that she was very serious and was paying attention.  But she was experiencing a reorientation in the same situation because of trying to focus on different elements of her environment.  So I said nothing and kept telling myself it was the end result of her training which was important.

As we drove along, I began to understand why it may be that newly committed Christians appear to be sort of “out of it.”  For a while, they seem to be like new drivers behind the wheel—in a kind of daze in which the world they have known appears to be totally different.  Because of accepting the responsibility of a new relationship with God and focusing on loving Him and his people, they seem to be unaware of things and people to whom they once paid attention quite naturally.  Many ministers or relatives are hurt and surprised when a church member gets “turned on” at some sort of lay renewal meeting and begins paying less attention to them while focusing on new Christian friends.  They often suspect that the new commitment might have been to a cult of some sort of self-centered pietists.  The temptation is to be very judgmental of people experiencing this reorientation[1].

I do not know how one really ought to handle this situation.  But by the end of the week (in our car) I noticed that my daughter knew where she was again.  And now she can include both the old things she used to see . . . and the new things she needed to see to grow up and get on down the road.

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.

Goethe[2]

as quoted in Psychological Foundations of Education

In training a horse, it is important not to break his spirit because it is his spirit, during and after the training period, which will determine his style and endurance.  Does education, we may ask, allow for the ex­pression of the wildness of vitality during the educational process, or does it repress vitality in the interest of form and conformity?

Reuel Howe

The Miracle of Dialogue[3]

Lord, help us to be patient with new Christians who seem to have lost their perspective as they have entered a new relationship with you.  If they become temporarily blinded to the ordinary responsibilities and the old friends around them, help us to provide an atmosphere in which this new relationship with You can be tested and translated into deeper relationships with people.  Help us in the church to let new Christians enjoy the excitement of discovery without our hypercritical judgment—even though there may be some anxious moments about their soundness and responsibility.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others, mocking, said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Acts 2:12, 13

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17


[1] This same kind of turned on excitement that makes people appear to have become weird  and distant and act as if they “know” and their families and friends “don’t” can take place when people first get into a 12 Step program, or even a comprehensive diet and/or exercise plan.

[2] Morris E. Eson, Psychological Foundations of Education (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), 39.

[3] Reuel Howe, The Miracle of Dialogue, (Greenwich, CT: Seabury Press, 1963), 124.

One comment | Add One

  1. Bill Todd - 12/16/2009 at 10:48 am

    Keith,

    Thanks for tackling this subject. As a pastor, I see it played out frequently. I also went through this period in my own journey.

    James admonition to be quick to listen to other’s journeys and slow, slow, slow to anger (by believing that it is somehow about you) are very helpful in these seasons.

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