Sunday, February 12, 2006
The American Dream
Take a look at this post.
And this one.
For a different take, look at this.
Read this one, too. Same issue, different angle.
Then take a look at this little story.
And, finally, to give yourself a break, read this one.
We are all caught in webs of lies. Some of them even look holy, but everyone has their own version of the American Dream. It takes time for God to lead us out of that confusing wilderness, and only his Spirit shines enough light to show us the path. There are many, many paths, all of them easier than the real one. They even look almost the same. Only a heart sensitized to God's guiding can tell the difference.
So, you're trying to live a life sensitized to God, in world that has no use for sensitivity. It's no wonder you hurt all the time.
My version of the American Dream is to, basically, go live under a rock someplace. Far away from the noise and sharp edges of the city. I hate this place, hate interacting with its crowds, hate the stink and the hassles. So, I expect God to push me to the opposite. This is another idea that Christians have propounded for years: only if it's painful is life any good.
I think that's a lie, too. I think what we need to do, every day, is ask God to help us find the truth. What is my real dream? What is yours? What is God's real dream for you? Not the dream the church would have you believe, and not the dream you've picked up over the years, but the real and true dream that God wants you to live. It won't be easy to find.
The difficulty has nothing to do with God being vindictive, or wanting to cause pain. That's another human conceit. Pain comes from change. The deeper the change, the more it hurts. We are all so fragile that we wrap ourselves around with protections and then cry every time the protections break down.
We're taught a very intellectual kind of religion. God will do this if we do that. The step-by-step way to being a follower of Jesus. Even the so-called "Mystic Nation" doesn't get it, being believers in words just as the churches are. We need, desperately, to let God into our deep hearts. He could do incredible, irreparable damage in there, and of course we don't want him in because he's portrayed as a very bitter old man who wants his way NOW!
If that were true... we'd all be dead right now. God is stern. He is Right and Truth made manifest in the world. His standard is perfection. The imperfect, even just a slight spot, cannot endure a microsecond in his presence. He is Himself, unchanging, holy. He also... tenderly sought out the one lost sheep and his Son was sacrificed so that that sheep could be brought back. Jesus becomes our Word of Truth and our shield before God, transmuting God's wrath to a love that includes us in his dream.
How is it that in 2000 years of Christian history the only enduring popular image of God is that of the vengeful curmudgeon? How is it that followers of Jesus still carry the same image around with them, with the assumption that anything good in life is bad? I think it's an artificial hair-shirt philosophy: if I sit out here in the desert and eat locusts, God will love me more. Better yet, I'll make a whip and bloody my back at Easter time so that God will know I'm with him. Why is it that God's gentleness, as demonstrated by everything from evanescent tendrils of cloud in a valley, to a snowflake reflecting headlights, to the comforting hand of the Holy Spirit at 3:00 AM, is disregarded as being beneath the notice of a serious Christian?
We pave our world with concrete, and then act surprised when the Holy Spirit keeps sending little blades of grass up through the cracks. Truth is in the grass, not the concrete. I believe God is quite capable of guiding us where we need to go. We don't need to help him by becoming anti-dream and anti-comfort. The truth is that the American Dream brings no happiness by itself. A life with God isn't happiness all the time, but it is a relationship that feels real in the ways that count to the deepest heart. You think I understand this? No, I don't. I'm going by feel. Intellect is a very cold guide to God's heart.
God expects tantrums. He knows us. Tantrums end. Life goes on, and this is how we learn. An ounce of experience is worth a truckload of intellectual theorizing. And at any one time, life is bound to be out of balance: intellect, heart, experience, teaching. We're small and weak. We move back and forth on God's broad path, thinking that the part we see at the moment is the whole thing. It may be stones and ice now, but that's for a purpose. God is a good guide, and the Holy Spirit knows where he's going.
While I was writing that, Lu was also busy. She pretty much answered her own question. God is good.
I went to Christian Assembly a week ago... and the Pastor said that just before he was about to become Senior Pastor... he took a look at his life and he didn't like what he saw. He realized that he had areas of his life that he needed to clean up, inconsistancies... things that shouldn't have been there... he said when he cam into pastorate he began asking people, WHO are you really? And they began to tell him... and tell him who they were... not just the outside ... old worked on how to play christian outside... but told them who they really were... what they struggled with.... he said he was surprised that so many people were like him... had areas that they needed to work on... and they need that someone to ask... "Who are you really"...
I don't know if this fits... it's just what came to mind as I read through some of these things... I ask myself this... when I am struggling... or when I see a picture of myself that I don't like or didn't want to see... "Who am I really"... "how am I representing Christ"?
Thanks for your posts Larry!