RECOGNIZING AND DEALING WITH SENSORY OVERLOAD

I once watched an episode where Chef Gordon Ramsay was invited by a restaurant owner to save his dying business.

This particular restaurant was not used to freshly-made foods. Most of their meals and ingredients were prepackaged, canned, microwavable, and processed.

Ramsay wanted to show them how freshly-made food tastes, so he went to the nearby farmer’s market, got fresh produce, fresh protein, fresh groceries, freshly ground spices – and made an amazing meal.

When he was done, he called the two hired chefs to taste his food and compare it with the processed version – then he asked them which they preferred.

Guess what? These young guys chose their microwavable, canned, processed dish.

Why?

Their palates had gotten so used to the strong additives, tasty preservatives and addictive chemicals in these foods, that when they tasted a fresh – and delicious – meal, it was not as ‘explosive’ on the tongue.

And that’s how our world is today.

Everything has to be ‘extra’:
Louder. Flashier. Faster. Harder. Stronger. Funnier. More colourful. More intense. More tasty. More gripping. More shocking.

Our five senses have been bombarded so much, that, slowly, without being aware of it, we are becoming overloaded – and desensitised to the high/noble/good/refined.

And I’m not talking about sinful things.

Sometime ago, I found myself a victim of sensory overload: I was always busy. My mind was always occupied with projects and to-do lists. My eyes had to be constantly looking at something. My ears were always plugged in. No matter how hard I tried to be still, I had to do something with my eyes and hands.

Even in God’s presence, it was becoming difficult to be quiet. When I wanted to worship, I had to play music. My prayer was accompanied, many times, by external ‘help’. I started finding it hard to pray without doing something else. Reading the Bible became a major chore. I had to force myself to be quiet enough to meditate.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew, without being told, that I was on a dangerous path – because anything that affects your spiritual life is the enemy’s turf. So, in desperation, I just shut down everything. Just me and God – with the old-fashioned Bible, notebook and pen. No phones. No laptops. No electronic device that would cause a distraction.

I wasn’t praying or asking for anything. I just wanted my five senses to be quiet. I just wanted to breathe.

At the end of the period, two notable things happened:

(1) My Tastes In Certain Christian Messages Changed.
I was unaware that the internal busyness, external noise and hyper-stimulants had gradually decreased my appetite for the supernatural and anything that wasn’t deeply, intensely God – messages included. My messages had started getting shorter – and ‘lighter’.

During that shutdown period, I began to desperately hunger for certain teachers and teachings. I was craving for ‘deep’ revelatory messages backed by the power of God. It was not just the words being spoken: it was the unction and spirit behind them.

I was ravenous – and I began to binge. It was as though, while my five senses had been overloaded and fed fat, my spirit-man had been starving and feeding on candy floss to survive.

My Spirit-man identified Spirit-food.

The second and very strange thing that happened was that:
(2) I Began To Crave For Highly Intellectual Material.

Yes. Intellectual. Again, I was unaware that my spiritual AND intellectual capacity had diminished due to my sensory overload. Because of the deluge of information and over-stimulation, I had fallen into the trap of consuming materials that were instantly gratifying – even if they didn’t have much content…and I’m talking even Christian materials.

I am a voracious reader, but, very slowly, once any material seemed too difficult to process, or too lengthy, or too time-consuming – whatever seemed to give my brain too much work – I shied away from it, except it was absolutely necessary. If it didn’t grab and keep my attention in three seconds, I discarded it – or postponed it for ‘later’.

After the shut-down, I could barely look at some of the materials I had been reading. I remember going through my libraries (e- and physical) and thinking, “I need something highly intellectual. I need something very intelligent.”
Usually, I would skim books, but now, I was focusing on each word. I began to actually read again.
It was as if my brain had been dormant, and needed to be kick-started into high gear.

That was when I realised that sensory overload excites your senses – but dulls your intellect.

I also realized that God is very balanced. Very ‘all-round.’

When you remove distractions to spend time with Him, He ‘upgrades’ your ‘taste’ – not just spiritually, but in every aspect of your life.

He is not just the God of deep, mysterious, Pauline revelations. He is also the God of everyday, practical, commonsense Proverbs.

Do you also know that sensory overload numbs even your creativity? A lot of what we produce is actually regurgitated from what we have absorbed from our surroundings.

However, “…there is a spirit in man…”^

There are unplumbed depths of creativity in God that can only be tapped into when you remove yourself from the bombardments all around.

Even in worship, you realize that you do not really need external music to worship. Initially, I couldn’t worship without playing some music, but after I shut down, external music sometimes became a distraction. The worship comes from within – and you find yourself singing new songs to the Lord. Or creatively remixing old ones 🙂

“…out of your belly will flow rivers of living water…”° becomes a reality.

So, how are your senses faring? Are you doing good, or are you suffering from sensory overload – and need to take a breather?

(^ Job 32:8; ° John 7:38)

(Do you have a prayer request? Send it in. We will DEFINITELY be praying.)
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Inspirational. Action-packed.

8 Comments

  1. Wow, this is a new one for me I must confess. Now I know why my creativity had somewhat diminished.. I’d have to read this again and again. Thank you.

  2. Oh, this is so interesting! I really wonder if the Lord is speaking to me about this issue through this post. For example, I use social media much more than I ever did and I’ve sometimes wondered if it is giving more a greater appetite for what is “instant”. Thank you so much.

    1. If your social media use has increased, there’s actually a greater probability that your appetite for the ‘instant’ has increased as well 🙂 You are most welcome, Patti. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. At times, God speaks through “common” things.
    At times, I try doing some of my things without engaging “sophisticated” means—like reading my book Bible!

    Sis Debby, the Lord remains your stay and sufficiency in Jesus’ name.

  4. I’ve never thought about sensory overload before, but your post has me thinking about it! I tend to enjoy quiet, but of late I’ve noticed I listen to more books or podcasts when I drive instead of just enjoying the peace and quiet.

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