Stop Stimulating Me!

— Andy Wade —

A very good idea!Several years ago my wife and I were missionaries in Taiwan. One day I was teasing my Chinese female co-worker about something. She laughed and quickly responded, “Stop stimulating me!”. I was a bit embarrassed, to say the least! Yes, it was a bit awkward, but I explained the mis-translation to which she replied, “I’ve been saying that to others for a long time and no one has ever corrected me!”

Now to be fair to my friend, her English was and is light-years ahead of where my Mandarin or Cantonese will ever be. I know for a fact that I’ve made equal and much greater language foibles in my years in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I share this story not because it has much to do with what follows, but simply to stimulate your interest! Did it work?

What stimulates your imagination?

During our twelve years in Hong Kong I know I suffered from over-stimulation. Not from imaginative ideas, but from all the neon and fluorescent signs, hordes of people, and the constant flow of traffic and noise. Entering one on Hong Kong’s mega-malls my eyes glazed over as I fell into a kind of consumeristic trance. I’m still not sure if this was by design or by accident. But I did know that I wanted to shout out, “Stop stimulating me!”

Over on Godspace, Christine Sine has been writing some very helpful posts about listening to God, setting priorities, and actively working to reconnect our lives with the purposes of God.  A key aspect of what Christine is exploring has to do with stepping away from all the external stimuli and centering our hearts and minds on God. A great idea – often easier said than done.

I want to take a slightly different angle, or more precisely, a converging line of thought. Once we’ve disconnected from the craziness that often is our lives, and once we’ve reconnected with Christ as our center, is there a way to more intentionally reintroduce what we allow to stimulate us? For example, instead of becoming overwhelmed by all the lights, noise, and chaos of the city, can I observe patterns in the chaos that actually promote its functioning? Is there something to be learned from those patterns? Are there patterns that appear destructive? How might the natural energy of the city be re-channeled so that a new pattern develops that enhances life?

Paul Sparks of Parish Collective recently shared a  good and very practical example of this. The Open Streets Initiative (video below) re-imagines streets as a place for people rather than cars. Even streets which are temporarily opened to foot and bike traffic have transformed how people view their city/neighborhood and caused a deeper level of personal and cultural interaction. A new kind of stimulation, a positive, healthy stimulation, is being created in cities around the world simply because people have dared to explore alternatives to conventional thinking.

This is just one example of being attentive to the life around us in a way that doesn’t overwhelm us, but rather stimulates the creative side of our imagination. So as you take time away to pray, to listen, to reconnect with God, ask yourself:

  • What are the things in my life that stimulate me?
  • What causes agitation and destructive withdrawal?
  • What sparks creative thinking and healthy relationships?
  • As I go from this quiet place of prayer back into the chaos of the world, how might I/we diminish or re-channel the negative stimuli and increase the positive?

Post your thoughts below and stimulate discussion and action!

The Rise of Open Streets from Streetfilms on Vimeo.