Sometimes we all need a whack on the side of the head.
At least, that was the premise of a popular book on creative thinking written by Roger von Oech, which was originally published in 1973 and entitled, appropriately enough, “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” The author is a “creativity theorist” who earned a PhD from Stanford University and has been an adviser to companies ranging from Apple, IBM, Intel, Sony and Disney.
His book has been praised by business people, educators, scientists and all kinds of others who sought to think outside of the box. And the reality is that sometimes we all tend to get into our mental ruts and need a whack on the side of the head–or some might say, a swift kick in the behind–to jar us into a new and better way of thinking.
Sometimes, the proverbial two-by-four that cracks against our cranium is self-inflicted, and sometimes I think it is divinely appropriated. Either way, we get shaken from our doldrums and pushed from our comfortability in a way that forces us to get a fresh perspective and to think a little more creatively.
And as you probably guessed, it’s not just creative thinking I’m talking about. It also applies to our spiritual lethargy and emotional malaise, which often reveal themselves in our going through the motions. After a while we realize our “want-to” doesn’t want to, and that we have lost our passion for the things–or the relationship–that once excited us.
Fortunately for us, we have a God who knows where we are and loves us enough that He doesn’t allow us to stay that way. Whether He gently whacks us across the head, pulls out the props, or prompts us in our spirit with an inner dissatisfaction, He is at work to draw us to Himself so that we find our wholeness in Him.
Which brings us back to the pandemic of 2020. It has certainly jarred us from our apathy, and shaken us from business as usual, as individuals, families and as a church. Hopefully we will see, in the midst of our restlessness for things to get back to normal, that the Lord is in all of this, and that He has a purpose. And I hope, as David Wilkerson used to say, that we don’t “waste our afflictions” and miss the point He is making.
In reality, what we are talking about here is the simple physics principle of “inertia,” the resistance of any physical object to any change in its velocity. Inertia is the tendency of something that is standing still to stay standing still and of something moving to keep moving. In practical terms, we like to get comfortable, and we hate it when something pushes us from our comfort zone–even when we need it.
John Piper wrote about the danger to the church of the “inertia” of everything going along smoothly. “Comfort and ease and affluence and prosperity and safety and freedom often cause a tremendous inertia in the church,” he said. “The very things that we think would produce personnel and energy and creative investment of time and money in the cause of Christ and His kingdom, instead produce, again and again, the exact opposite–weakness, apathy, lethargy, self-centeredness, and preoccupation with security.”
Which is when God is kind enough to give us the proverbial whack on the side of the head, sometimes even disguised as a pandemic.
I pray that the Lord will continue to use this time in which we have been shaken from our routine to change our inertia and light our fire again. And as we will be forced to a new level of “creative thinking” when it’s time to restart public gathering of the church, I pray that He will give us willing hearts and open minds for how He can use us to be His church in the 21st century.
Hang in there, my dear church family. This too shall pass, and hopefully we will be better from having walked through this. I am grateful for each of you, and I pray the Lord’s blessing on you and your family. Please continue to be humble, be wise, be safe, and be faithful.