Expectations vs. Reality: My Faith and My Instagram Photos

For years now, Norway has hovered near the top of my dream countries to visit. I love mountains, rugged countryside, and water, and Norway has all three in epic proportions.

I was recently able to talk my family into joining me there for a family vacation, the climax of which was a hike up to a rock formation called Trolltunga or “the troll’s tongue.”

It’s basically this thin rock that juts off the side of cliff over a multiple thousand foot fall to certain death because #adventure… obviously. I had seen pictures of solo hikers standing stoically on the precipice and was determined to do the same despite my crippling fear of heights…

The hike itself was a fairly strenuous hike stretching 17 miles roundtrip and rising 3,200 feet, most of that in the first few miles. I gasped my way up and, when I got to the top, instead of being greeted by a pristine, untouched beauty, I was greeted by this:

Literally hundreds of people waiting in line to get their photo taken on the tongue.

My initial reaction was intense frustration. Who were all these people and what right did they have to be here ruining what I had imagined would be a solitary and celebratory moment?

I think we all have this drive to be special or to stand out, but that can’t always be the case. For every superhero that saves the day, there are hundreds of people being saved. For every disciple handing out fish and loaves, there were 416.67 men simply being fed. For every Apostle Paul clarifying the teachings of Christ, there are thousands of just regular people. The ones needing taught. And you know what? That’s ok.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this during my devotions lately.

Similar to how I wanted to have this grand, unique experience at Trolltunga, I also find myself wanting to have some deep and original insights into God’s word, but, honestly, I’ve never had one. Sure I’ve had plenty of new-to-me revelations, but when I’ve shared them with friends it always ends with a statements like “Yeah, I remember Bonhoeffer writing on something along those lines” or “Oh! Andy Stanley has a great sermon on that!”


So I’m anywhere between a few years and a few decades years behind the curve.


But again, this isn’t a bad thing! In all honesty, with almost 2000 years of Christian thought and study, it’s very unlikely that I, just your plain old average Joel, am going to revolutionize our understanding of the Bible. Just because the lessons we’re learning from the Bible have been learned before by people older and, most likely, with better beards than ours, doesn’t invalidate our insights.

I think Christianity is this beautiful dichotomy where it’s both intensely personal as well as fully communal. Community is essential to faith, but, at the same time, faith is essentially the relationship between you and God. Just because you’ve had a revelation that’s already been had before, doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t completely overhaul your personal relationship with Christ.

Paul uses the metaphor of the church as a body to illustrate how we all have different functions, but as the individual parts of the body grow, so does the body as a whole. While the lessons we learn may not revolutionize humanity’s understanding of God, as we grow personally we encourage and spur on our brothers and sisters to do the same and the community benefits much in the same way as lofty contributions by those one in million thinkers.

If you’re like me, and the rules of probability say you are, you’re most likely not a grand academic or intellectual who is going to make ground breaking theological contributions. You’re that man in the taxi getting saved by the masked man in the newest superhero movie. You’re the woman being handed fish and loaves by a disciple. You’re one of the guys receiving Paul’s letter about how you need to get your act together. You’re one of the masses and that’s ok.

As I waited in that long line to get onto the troll’s tongue, I started to understand that being there with other people did not take away from my experience. Every single one of these people put in the work, just like I did, to be there. If anything, there was a communal sense of appreciation for the beauty before us.

No one was cutting in line, no one was pushing, and the one time I saw someone litter, they were immediately called out. The experience wasn’t quite what I had imagined, but the beauty of the Trolltunga exceeded expectations, and the fact that I did it as part of the masses couldn’t diminish that.

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October 31, 2018 8:15 am

“You’re one of the masses and that’s ok.” — This is spot on. We have a culture so caught up in individualism and being the next big thing. Humility is required to live a life of being ok with being a nobody in community. Thanks Joel for this reminder today!

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