The Beauty of Fresh Eyes: Overcoming Familiarity’s Blindness” – John O. Olonade

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They said, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters are still here in the neighborhood” (Mark 6:3).

One of the stories in the Bible that fascinates and amuses me the most is when Jesus came to Nazareth, his hometown. Before this, he had performed many astounding miracles in different towns and villages, and the people there had received him with glee and awe. However, when he came to Nazareth, it wasn’t business as usual. Unlike the warm welcome he received in other towns and villages, the people of Nazareth treated Jesus with contempt.

The people of Nazareth had seen Jesus grow up among them, and they were familiar with his humble beginnings. They saw him as a local boy who grew up with James and his other brothers, the son of Joseph, the carpenter. They probably saw him playing in the streets and going to the synagogue with his family as a kid. They viewed Jesus’ humanity through the lens of their familiarity and couldn’t see that this was God in their neighborhood.

I imagine how the exchange between some of the neighbors sounded like:

POV: (Two Jewish men, Aviram and Chaziel, in their mid-fifties, standing in the crowd as Jesus teaches some little children in front of the Synagogue.)

Aviram: (whispering to Chaziel) Can you believe this boy? He thinks he’s so special just because he’s been performing those fake miracles in Capernaum.

Chaziel: (scoffing) Yeah, and now he’s come to our town, thinking he can just waltz in here and impress us with his smooth tongue?

Aviram: (rolling his eyes) Who does he think he is? Is he not the son of Joseph, the carpenter? His sisters live with their mother just down the road. I’ve known him since he was a kid. He’s as ordinary as the leather strap on my back.

Chaziel: (spits contemptuously on the ground) And have you heard what he’s been saying? He thinks he’s the Messiah or something. What a clown!

Aviram: (chuckling) What about his followers? A bunch of poor fishermen and tax collectors. Pathetic!

Chaziel: (sneering) To think he’s got the nerve to come here and teach us. He must think we are as stupid as those mindless, idle youths he calls disciples.

Aviram: (shaking his head) I only hope he doesn’t corrupt our children with his false religion. Let’s get out of here. I can’t hear any more of his blasphemy.

(They turn to leave, but Jesus catches their eye and looks at them with a piercing gaze)

Chaziel: (uncomfortable) Uh oh, I think he’s seen us.

Aviram: (nervously) Yeah, let’s just go.

(They quickly exit the synagogue, muttering to themselves)

This was God himself, paying them a visit, and they derided him as nothing but the bloody son of a carpenter. Imagine how many more miracles were left undone just because they didn’t believe. You see, this is the danger of unbridled familiarity. The Nazarenes’ inability to reckon with the Godhood of Jesus Christ was also a sign of irreverence. They allowed their familiarity with him to breed contempt.

In our sojourn with God, many times we tend to make the mistake the Nazarenes made. Sometimes, we take the intimacy and relationship we have developed with Jesus for granted, assuming they are unworthy of reverence and gratitude. This biblical story should serve as a stern warning and a stark reminder that when we become too comfortable and familiar with the things of God, we risk losing sight of His majesty, prowess, and wonder.

When we get too familiar with the person of God and our intimacy with him, our hearts gradually start getting resistant to the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit; his gentle whispers and silent nudges. The beauty and power of God’s word become desensitized in our hearts, and its taste loses savour in our minds. We become complacent in our place of spiritual devotion and risk missing our Kairos moments.

As believers, no matter the depth of our intimacy with God, we must always learn to seek God daily with great yearning and fervor. We must earnestly desire the sincere milk of Christ. We must seek to renew ourselves in the spirit regularly through prayers and devotion. Overfamiliarity, or “see-finish” in Nigerian colloquial term, breeds contempt. And hardly any relationship can survive when contempt is in the room.

As humans, the tendency to be familiar and lose value for the people around us is inherent. It’s the reason why you no longer greatly adore that celebrity you once held in great awe because you now have access to them intimately. It’s the reason some spouses who have spent years together no longer celebrate and hold themselves highly the way they used to. The mistake of overfamiliarity is not peculiar to the Nazarenes alone. More often than not, we fall prey to the danger of overfamiliarity.

We become too accustomed to the presence of the great, amazing, kind, and talented folks around us that we begin to take their virtue for granted. Sometimes, we forget that the people we see every day – our family, friends, colleagues – are also capable of extraordinary things. Many times, we ignore the spark within them.

In our relationship with God and love walk with others, we must learn to rever and see the latest bliss and wonder in the familiar. Never assume that someone’s humble antecedents or ordinary appearance is a pointer to their lack of greatness. Appreciate the little miracles; the gift of sleeping and waking up, the gift of sight, of love, of shelter. Thank God for the seemingly little things.

We should remember that familiarity in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, there is a lot of good you can harness from your state of familiarity with God and great people around you. We should seek to be familiar and intimate with God, but the caveat lies in the fact that familiarity is a double-edged sword. If you allow your familiarity to grow in an unhealthy way, it will be to your peril.

May God help us to behold the glory and substance of God and the great things around us like a child adores a fancy toy; wide eyed and mystified, with awe, with fresh eyes, with innocence, and a humble heart. Amen.

Written by John Olusegun Olonade.

John Olusegun Olonade is the self-published author of TRAVELOGUE; a collection of soul melting words for those who hate poetry and a non-fiction novel, ECHOES FROM THE 19TH. He is a lawyer, content writer and prolific blogger and he offers avid writing services. He is blissfully married to Leah. You can connect with him via his social media channels; Instagram: john_olonade, Twitter: @thejohnolonade, Facebook: John Olonade.

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