On Saturday, I was struck with a thought, a realization, a fear, an honest diagnosis. Maybe you saw my tweet/Facebook status.
“Thinking about how not to be a lame suburban Christian making excuses about busyness and family while chasing the American dream”.
Maybe you thought I was just irritable. Maybe you missed the implication that I, to a strong degree, feel the pull in that direction.
Allow me to explain.
As most of you know, I just bought a house. And we’re getting settled in and it’s nice. And we had all these ideas about living missionally within our new community, because we had all these excuses about our old community (“those neighbors have known Tyler since he was 5”, “those neighbors are distributing illegal substances”, “no one lives there”). It turns out, that there’s a strong pull to cry and make excuses in the new community as well.
I mean, it’s like the problem isn’t about our neighborhood or about opportunities, but the problem seems to be….us.
I get it more and more. We own our own home, and have an impressive checklist for how to make it into a fortress that we never have to leave (flatscreen TV over the mantle so I can watch football here and not out there, home office so I can study here and not out there, more comfortable furniture so we can hang out here and not out there). Then there’s just the other stuff that takes up our thinking. Like maybe we don’t want our guest bathroom to be lemon yellow (just personal preference).
I feel the pull that if my wife and I are not careful then our life will become all about filling up our expensive box with more stuff that can’t go with us when they bury us in another expensive box, when Jesus said that “one’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And I know that! And I would preach strong against that! And I feel the pull nonetheless…
I mean, this is the suburbs (where I’ve lived happily for all my life). We have to fight hard not to be isolated. I know someone with a neighbor directly next door named Mr. Smith. This someone saw Mr. Smith one day and asked “How’s Mrs. Smith?” His reply is startling. She passed away. 10 months ago.
Would you know if your neighbors were going through catastrophe?
We had crazy cheap rent in our last place. One day we came home to find the neighbors across the street suddenly gone with half of their stuff out on the street. Eviction.
Would you know your neighbors well enough to be able to help?
Hugh Halter and Matt Smay have a very intriguing diagram that I may throw out in a future post. In that diagram, they say that the barrier between our communion with God and our moving out on mission is “consumerism”. In other words, we put our own needs in front of others and think that we can’t meet other’s needs until our own needs are met. The problem is further complicated by the fact that our perceived needs are always bigger than our actual needs.
Individually, we’re focused on trying to get, and not on trying to give.
Think about it in terms we know. There are some needs that must be met. There are other’s that are just unnecessary. Financially, we would refer to that kind of debt as “consumer debt”. It’s credit card debt so that you can have things you can’t afford, etc. The first step to getting out of debt is to stop buying things on credit that you can’t afford. When it comes to thinking about mission, we have “consumer debt” concerning time, talent, money, and thinking that must be stopped. As they propose, we need to challenge some of our perceived needs, so that we have more time and resources to give towards others.
I don’t want to settle into a nice comfortable, American dream-chasing life where, spiritually speaking, I start consuming increasing amounts of comfort and then become addicted to it, so that I wake up years from now and realize I’m a comfort-aholic, who is too drunk on comfort to see the surpassing greatness of following Jesus on mission.
My name is Tyler and my family and I have a problem. We’ve sold Jesus’ mission for comfort for years. We’re trying to sober up. Pray for us.
We’ve got a little list going of things we’re going to try to help get out there in culture and not spend so much time focused on ourselves and making life more comfortable. Pray for us.