In the medical world, the term “overexposure” means, “excessive exposure, especially to something harmful.” While construction workers or athletes can experience overexposure due to their prolonged period in the Sun or extreme exercise (hyperthermia), people living in colder climates can experience overexposure symptoms (hypothermia) when they are stranded or without adequate layers. One famous example of the later situation can be seen in the true story titled “the man who refused to freeze.” This account of extreme survival happened to 23-year- old Icelander, Guðlaugur Friðþórsson (what a name!) on the evening of March 12, 1984. After the fishing vessel he was working on net’s got caught on the ocean floor, Friðþórsson was violently thrown into the ocean on an evening where the temperature was well below freezing. Three miles away from the shore, it took him six hours to swim to land, while the other two survivors succumbed after ten minutes in the frigid water. Once ashore, the grueling task of finding a home or building to take refuge into took several more hours of walking along the coastline – in his freezing clothes, in the below freezing temperatures! Somehow, Friðþórsson not only managed to survive but walked away minor scratches and a mild case of hypothermia in merely his fingers.
Physical overexposure is something we are all familiar with and can relate to in mild ways more than likely (getting too hot/cold in the peak of our seasons), but I wonder if “spiritual overexposure” is something we are cautious and aware of. Going back to our definition we started with, I believe spiritual overexposure happens when we as Christian’s experience excessive exposure to the world that we live in. Whether it is due to our workplace or school, our abundant social media use, or other contributing factors it is difficult to ignore the reality of the ever-growing challenge to be IN the world but not OF the world. Paul would summarize this mission well in Romans 12:2 by stating, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Building upon that, I believe it’s also important to note the command found in 1 John 2:15-17 where we find the stark realization of the expectation God has for our relationship with the world that we live in, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Do you find yourself having trouble not loving the world at times? Sure, we all hate what we see when we turn on the news, when we experience the pains of this life, or when tax season comes along. What about when it comes time for your favorite sport season? When you find success in your career that you’ve been laboring in for a lengthy period of time? Or maybe when things seem to finally be working out in certain parts of your life, or as a whole? Is it wrong to find joy in these moments; not at all! However, it is problematic when we put more stock in accomplishing these worldly fulfilments than our efforts in achieving our spiritual goals and Heavenly calling. James would say it this way in his letter to the early Christians (4:4), “…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Step back for a moment and think about the sins and stressors you’re dealing with at the moment. Could they possibly be symptoms related to you being overexposed to the harmful world that we live in? Not many of us can be like our friend with the weird name mentioned earlier who was exposed to the world’s elements for that long and walk away barely harmed because of it. Maybe you can’t unplug from work or school that you feel like is the source of your “exposure to the world,” but you can realign your goals and purposes within those institutions and “put the first things first”. If it’s social media that’s plaguing you – you can unplug from that. Do whatever you must to show that you’re not a friend to this world, but rather a follower of its Creator.