"We each become a collection of other people's desires for our lives. In my life, I've coined a phrase to describe the tug I often feel between who I want to be and who I'm expected to be. I call this the "Great Tension." It's the tension between this collection of other people's desires for my life and God's desire for my life." -Jay Milbrandt in Go + Do
Don't we all feel this tension at some point in our lives? Most often, it's called "peer pressure" and it's what our parent's warned us against when we were children. This world and all the fun things in it serve as a great distraction from our true life's purpose of serving and worshiping God. We feel this pressure to conform and give in to worldly desires from all directions. You can't turn on TV, open a magazine, or even drive down the road without being told what new product you have to buy in order to be happy. You can't turn on the radio or go to a movie without having lust, greed, and arrogance shoved in your face with the message that if you're not like everyone else; you're less of a man or woman.
I'm amazed that people still buy into the idea of consumerism. We've had shiny new products thrown at us left and right our entire lives with the message that every new product is the solution to all the world's ills. Every new product cures cancer, feeds the poor, and makes us better in bed. And yet, as a whole, we're a miserable lot. Our society is addicted to drugs like no society before -not just narcotics, but anti-depressants, pain killers, and the catch all for lazy parents: adderall and ritalin. Did you know that in each and every US school shooting during my life, the attacker was taking an SSRI like ritalin? Aside from guns and depression, it's the only link among all of them. Our society is more violent than ever. Yet, we still fall for the salespeople's lies day in and day out, time after time.
We follow the same logic in our personal and professional lives as we do in our consumerism. Find the highest paying job in the economy today. In 4 years, that will have the highest number of college graduates. Medicine and law constantly top the list of graduation rates, but we've also seen IT graduation rates soar during the dot com bubble, finance degrees were the thing to have preceding the financial meltdown in '08, and today you're a nobody if you don't have in music or video production thanks to the proliferation of iTunes and YouTube's instant stardom possibilities. Those of us who chose other professions are looked down upon as inferior. When I joined the military I heard a near constant chorus of "why?" and "but you're so smart." If I had chosen the path to personal riches, I would have been adored, but choosing to serve others only led to laughs and comments about how much potential I was wasting. Follow the crowd, it seems, or else. Serve yourself or we'll turn on you.
Our personal lives aren't any better. On average, we get divorced twice, arrested at least twice, and contract at least one sexually transmitted disease before dying under a mountain of debt.
What's worse, is that I'm talking about Christians here! How many young women in your church are (or were at one point) single, unwed mothers? How many young men have dated and slept their way through your church? How many members of your congregation wear their very best clothes to church to impress others at how far they've come? I bet the parking spaces closest to where everyone passes on their way into the building are filled with the nicest cars. We, the church, have fallen down in the mud with everyone else on this earth and will share their fate if we aren't careful.
And before I get tons of comments about judging others from some high place; I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I spent far too long searching for happiness in women, drugs, and stuff. Even now I'm guilty of consumerism. I love stuff. A new android tablet is coming out? OHH, Shiny! It hasn't been a week or so since I threatened to sing in the streets over a new pair of shoes. Sure, they were cheap shoes, but they're still stuff. I, too, am guilty.
But! I'm getting better. It's baseball season, so I can't turn off my tv entirely until the braves are completely out of contention and Chipper has played his last game; but aside from that, I'm turning of the tv and unplugging from the constant stream of sex, cat-fighting, and stupidity that's found inside. When was the last time you saw a Christian on tv that wasn't being played as either an intolerant jerk or the dopey fool? Is that the message we want to take in? I keep my radio tuned to Christian music stations as well. For one, I like the music. But also, I don't want to be bombarded with violent, sexist lyrics or such racy, lustful lyrics that I'm embarrassed when my mother asks me what something means. (we've all been there, it's awful explaining what songs mean to our parents and we know it.) Why volunteer to bring that trash into our lives? We're called to live separate from the world! We're called to be better than the world!
Here in the south we all confess to being Christians, yet the bible belt has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates, highest STD infection rates, and is the home of both America's racist hate groups and poorest, most undeserved people. What we confess with our mouths, we deny with our lives.
But there is hope! I've seen it! The past week has been one of the best weeks of my life! I've gotten so much support from others. From the men at the prosthetics lab who are going out of their way to train me to build prosthetics in the third world to an email I got today from the most unlikely source that read:
"So I've been stalking you on twitter. I love your blog. I will be praying for you as you go all in. I'm so excited to "see" this side of you a total 180 from where you were when we split."
Those words came from my ex wife, Jenny who saw me at my most livid, angry, and selfish times. I've heard great news from people like myself who were lost in the world and have turned their lives around to serve the lord.
We have a great opportunity here to change the world for the better. The internet has given us chances to fund lifesaving efforts in the third world for pennies through crowd funding. Ministry schools are overflowing with great people eager to take on the world with open hearts and messages of love. Heck, even Chick-Fil-A came out this week saying that they would continue to support biblical truths, drawing harsh criticisms from groups all over the country, only to see huge lines at lunch the following day. I drove by one, they're not hurting!
Friends, I urge you to pick a side. Jesus told us that we could not serve two masters, yet we constantly try to do just that in the face of all the evidence that it does not work. How long have you chased the things this world told you were important? How long have those things not worked? How long will you believe the lies? You can find happiness. It's not in a pill, a song, a woman, a drink, or even a Porsche. It's in the love and grace you will find when you tell all of those other things to go pound sand while you follow God and allow Him to share His happiness with you.