“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” (Fight Club)
I had a chance this past week to hang out with folk from the Brethren Church and in particular their church planting crew known as MissioChurch. I like hanging around church planters because in general they aren’t normal, they typically are all a little ‘off’ in the head you know? They have dreams buried in them that don’t allow them to accept status quo. They are used to an identity in which they don’t always fit in with establishment. It’s not rebellion, they aren’t against establishment, rather they believe that they exist to support and extend the reach of all things good about the Church and its’ service to the world. It’s a holy kind of discontentment. Church planters ask a lot of questions and aren’t afraid to live in the land of tension and discomfort. They’ve worked hard to develop the skills in fact that allow them to thrive in such lands of in-between.
One of the speakers at this gathering transparently shared her story of downward progression from an idyllic life of “the American dream with a side of Jesus”. Her and her husband had it all: the stable high income jobs, a dream house on acreage, Pinterest quality decor, retirement investment strategies, social status, upward mobility . . . all that the American Dream is designed to be that comes with the white picket fence. Her name is Shannan Martin and her book is entitled ‘Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted’. What followed in their story was selling everything, moving into a low-income and broken neighborhood, taking a new job in the local jail, noticing their neighbors, getting involved in the justice causes of their community and adopting kids with little hope. A life of beauty and hardship, a life that Jesus can’t exist on the side, he wants to be the main course of sustenance.
Here’s what I’m learning, the American Dream with a side of Jesus doesn’t work. It’s completely unsatisfying. The American Dream is not a big enough idea for me to give my blood, sweat and tears to. It’s a fool’s gold. It’s slavery to a system of wants, false securities and anxiety-driven ambitions. I know that I’m going to die, and none of the purchased commodities are coming with me, so what are the things that last I can invest into? If I know I’m going to die, the only relevant question then is what do I want to live for?
Do you ask the big questions about your life? Where does your satisfaction come from? Whose opinion about you matters? Who do you want to please? What makes you come alive? Does fear about the future dominate your brain-space more than living fully today? Are the things you’re striving for going to live beyond your last breath?
The answers to our big questions reveal the things we worship, what we worship we become. What I’m learning is God isn’t interested in being our side-piece. He’s not insecure in the truth, power and freedom he offers so he’s not shy about what he wants: he wants all of it. He is the King and he wants singular allegiance. We get to choose if we believe he is a good King and worthy of that place in our heart, mind, soul and life. If we let him, he’ll do just about anything to break us down until we realize that he is all we need. In him we can find our being and our moving. Before there was ever a myth called the American Dream . . . He was. If he brought all things into being then my created life finds purposed and wholeness in him. To choose him is not foolishness, it’s deep abiding wisdom. It’s what I’m choosing today, a singular allegiance to the One who made me.
“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” -Exodus 34:14