Even if you’ve never been there personally, chances are you have a significant mental picture attached to the name “Niagara Falls.” You know, the waterfalls between New York and Canada where 3,160 gallons of water plummet over rocky cliffs every second? Yeah, it’s a pretty famous place.
But as someone who grew up with Niagara Falls practically in her backyard, sometimes I forget people come from all over the world to see them. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the Falls in all seasons.
I’ve picnicked by the rapids in the spring, watched fireworks over the Falls on the Fourth of July, hiked the gorge in the autumn and taken family Christmas card pictures there in the winter (not very fun, unless you enjoy risking hypothermia).
But when I forget about the fame of the Falls, I am always reminded whenever we have visitors. Without fail, visiting Niagara Falls is always on the list of things they want to do.
And while I do generally enjoy the experience while I’m there, sometimes I let out a small internal groan when our visitors want to go there. “Ugh. Not again.” After so many years and visits, the majesty of Niagara Falls has lost its luster in my eyes.
So while thousands of tourists are rushing to the railings at the water’s edge, I stand back a bit watching in amazement, not at the waterfalls, but at the people.
As spectacular as the sight of the Falls really is, I’ve come to prefer watching tourists’ reactions. Their breathing in deeply the raw magnificence of something so naturally exhilarating—it makes me miss the same first-time feeling of wonder I must have had.
My relationship with Niagara Falls reminds me so much of my struggle to love relentlessly. Time and constant presence can dim passion and dull the appreciation we have for both things and people in our lives.
Whether in my relationship with Christ, my friendships or the relationships of those I see around me, love too often grows cold. We all can sink so often into a pit of apathy—or worse, of resentment—and become blind to the beauty in front of us.
Sometimes when I’ve known someone for a long time, it’s easy to take that person for granted. It’s easy to treat him or her with less respect and appreciation than they deserve because the first sense of “wonder” I had for them has worn off. I’ve forgotten what makes that person so unique, so incredible, and I’ve let their constancy become an excuse for disinterest or apathy.
I think of the glory of the cross, and I remember the first time I, as a little girl, truly felt the weight of what Jesus has done for me. It was an emotional experience, being full of awe at something so wonderful. And now, I sorrow to think that there have been times I have thought of the cross and felt nothing. Although it’s a messy confession that makes me feel ashamed, I know I’m not the only person who’s felt this way.
But thinking about Niagara Falls has helped me come to some realizations and remedies for apathy. On my most recent trip to Niagara Falls last summer, I told myself that I wanted to feel something again.
I tried to look at it with new eyes and fully understand the gravity of what I was beholding—and it worked. I was able to have that same kind of first-time experience by changing my attitude.
Learning more about something or looking at it from a new perspective can help you appreciate something or someone more. Sure, it takes effort to listen and learn more about a person or to study something, but it lets you find new value that you may have never seen before. Look from new angles.
Even if you’ve been to Niagara Falls, you may have never stood on the wooden walkway of the Cave of the Winds, just 20 feet from the Falls. Just as looking at Niagara Falls from different perspectives has let me see and appreciate new aspects of it, so looking at the Gospel story from new perspectives has renewed my wonder as I understand newly revealed aspects of the love of God.
So if you’re feeling apathetic in the face of something beautiful, try to look at it with new eyes, new information and a new perspective. Teach yourself to love it again.