"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention!" Matthew 7:12-14 MSG
i am always afraid people think i am uptight, that i am boring and don't like to have fun. i think this is partly because i have lived with extraordinarily extroverted people throughout my college years (and on into this one year in true adultland), and their frequent dinner parties and dance parties and late-night talks have made me feel a bit alien at times. the other reason i am afraid of being uptight is because i still miss doing homework a little and i go to bed at 9:30 and i usually only have one drink and i crave routine. in other words, i incriminate myself by my rhythms and habits. i am not the fun, loosey-goosey friend you call when you feel like doing something spontaneous--you call me when you need some blunt common sense or perhaps an accountability partner. i know this is valuable, too, but sometimes i can't help but wistfully wonder what it would be like to be the fun and flexible friend, and i also think perhaps this is why i have so many friends that are known for being bubbly and out-going.
(that is a bit of a precursor, because i want you to know that i feel embarrassed about not being known for laughs and giggles, and sometimes i wish i didn't come across as so strict all the time.)
but i've been thinking, my friends, about discipline and how vigorous we must be in not allowing the Gospel to be diluted by materialism and nationalism and consumerism. all those isms. we are obsessed with upward mobility in this nation, my pastor tells us this often. we create God in our own image and find he agrees with us on all our political, social, and ethical positions (which probably means you aren't following Jesus, but a god constructed for your own comfort and happiness).
i'm increasingly worried by the comfort and leisure advocated by our culture, i'm troubled by happy hours and my desire for clothing catalogues, and i find myself increasingly bothered by the competition and show-off-ness fostered by facebook and especially pinterest. i'm not calling all those things evil, i'm just telling you--it can be hard for me to see the Kingdom of God in these things. and truth be told, i want to be a little uncomfortable, because i want to think things through and not just swallow them whole.
i don't want my friendships to be only about posting clever things on one another's facebook walls. i don't want to care more about fashion than i do about actual people's lives. i'm sorry if you feel a sense of boredom and/or deja vu whilst reading these sentences, and i'm worried you think i'm overlooking the goodness of beauty and laughter. i tell you, with all my heart, that this is the last thing i intend. i know such things are gifts from God. i just can't help but wonder if we need to do a little sorting through, like cleaning out the closet to get rid of the tattered old clothes, to make sure there aren't selfish or shallow motives hiding in there along with the honest enjoyment of life. i find i get the most defensive when i know there is a grain of truth to a person's words or warning. i'm wondering if you might benefit, like me, from asking some hard questions about why you do things and buy things and use the internet the way you do.
danielle says it brilliantly, of course: "Our obsession with consumption, full of bleak immediacy and unsatisfying indulgence, is not as harmless as we want to believe. In reality, it has robbed us of any interest in our neighbors, allowing great evil to reign (indeed, the world has only seen an increase in violence and suffering innocents in this, our most prosperous century)."
i have no neat conclusions, friends. i am guilty. i worry too much about being cool and i try to admit this often so there is some accountability and humility in my life. i mostly interact with people who are educated and comfortably middle-class and i am nervous to venture outside this bubble. i find myself especially nervous as i begin the early stages of planning a wedding (!) and sincerely want to treat it as a sacred celebration, not an advertisement of my good taste. i am only sharing this with you (yet again...) because i want others to do this with me--not so i can drag you all down with me, but so we can help one another stay focused on the goal. the way to true living is vigorous! Jesus says so himself. it requires focus and discipline, and it's not something you stumble into. and this means we need each other, quite desperately, as well as the grace and guidance of the Spirit of Jesus, if we are to have any chance at all.
"These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock....But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards." Matthew 7:25-27, MSG.