I've always been a reader so I picked up the meaning of many words simply based on their context - even if I wasn't pronouncing them correctly. I always read the word "awry" as awe-ree. And the word "hyperbole" as hyper-bowl instead of high-PER-bull-lee. I knew what they meant even if I'd never seen them in action. What does it look like for something to go awry or for something to be described with hyperbole? Now I know. I watch it happen every day on the news or on someone's Facebook post. The internet defines hyperbole as "exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally." Synonyms include overstatement, exaggeration, embellishment.
I've seen lots of this happening this week. Most of the overstatements came from weather forecasters as they described the polar vortex and the accompanying snow. "Coldest temperatures in decades!" "Frostbite within x# of minutes of exposure!" "Close everything! Stores, restaurants, doctors offices and Starbucks!" "Going out in these temperatures could cause instant death!" "Danger, danger, danger!" Ok, those last two were hyperbole. But you get the idea. And yes, it was cold. Bitter even. But there is an intense amount of hype surrounding every weather event and most of it is overstatement. We gear up for the storm of the decade and end up with a few inches of powder, or none at all.
We do this in our own lives though. The day to day frustrations of life can become enormous in our minds if we let them grow. How many conversations have you had where someone is recounting a spilled coffee or a technological/computer/phone problem and someone responds with, "oh, that's just the worst!" Comedian Tim Hawkins does a fantastic bit about this very phrase. When something happens is it really the worst thing ever? We tend to exaggerate the little things that frustrate us and it throws other things in our life out of perspective. Traffic snarls on US 23, choosing the wrong checkout line in Meijer and waiting 20 minutes while you watch a dozen people go through the line you should have gotten into, dropping the milk carton onto the kitchen floor and a million other tiny annoyances that irritate us but are just not that bad. What about the person going through something truly difficult?
This is just one of the many things about the Gospel that is so amazing. The truth of Jesus and what he did on the cross in his eternal assault on the consequences of sin has a grounding effect. It brings us back to reality. We can understand that no matter what the situation or the forecast we serve a God who has carried the weight of the world's sin and shame and literally gone to hell and back for His own Creation - there is no doubt in my mind - that is the worst. We won't be able to stop newscasters from predicting gloom and doom and using hyperbole to describe whatever weather is on the way, nor will we be able to avoid the things in life that annoy and irritate but we can submit those things to Jesus and get some perspective. "Is this really as bad as I think it is?"
One thing we forget is that our circumstances are for our growth in Christ. If we are constantly blowing them out of proportion or desperately trying to avoid anything that might upset us or be difficult, we miss whatever God is doing through that circumstance. Whatever is happening in your life might be bad, but "the storm of the century"? Not likely. But an opportunity to trust God and grow? Guaranteed. Now, bundle up and cover any exposed skin! You don't want to freeze out there.