Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Culture of Dissatisfaction
Advertising teaches us to be dissatisfied with the way we look, how much we weigh, what we wear, what we drive, where we work, what we do, where we live, what we own, etc... The ads insist that in order to be happy we must have new -- new looks, new wardrobes, new cars, new jobs/careers, new homes, new stuff. No one, I repeat, no one can be happy in their old bodies, cars, homes, stuff, work, etc... I know it is probably unAmerican to say this but our consumer culture breeds dissatisfaction like rabbits. BTW... I need to go to Wal-Mart after I am done here...
Even the TV preachers urge us on -- some insist that God wants to give us more stuff if we will let him and others have ten easy steps to better everything. The very places where we go to seek contentment are often the same kind of voices urging us to be dissatisfied and to let that dissatisfaction prod us to more and better lives. The good works that we do somehow get caught up in this as if good works were a race to see who could do the most, the best, and the fastest.
Is it no wonder that we sour on our political leaders as soon as we elect them? Is it no wonder that our trash bins are full of perfectly good stuff that we no longer want or need (or no longer satisfies us)? Is it no wonder that we discard spouses at the first hint of disappointment or that dissatisfaction is the chief reason for divorce? Is it no wonder that we helicopter over our children to make them perfect, high achievers (or else we feel the failure and we risk being as disappointed in ourselves as we are in them)? Dissatisfaction is just as much a refusal to be satisfied as it is real problems and real issues that deprive us of our peace.
Congregations labor with people who are never satisfied -- who threaten to leave or actually leave because their "needs are not being met" (code for dissatisfaction). New congregations are magnets for dissatisfied Christians looking for more, new, or different. As soon as they become familiar, these folks are on the prowl again for a better church home. Pastors face the same sort of unrealistic expectations and so it is not unusual for Pastors to grow dissatisfied with the places where they are at and for the people to become dissatisfied with their Pastors. We do not need big issues to drive us away or plant the seeds of dissatisfaction.
For all the our technology has provided us, it is more than anything else a forum for our dissatisfaction. We use facebook to trash people or express our discontent. We friend and unfriend people as if friendship were the click of a mouse (perhaps that is what it has become). We email, text, and tweet our discontent and make sure the whole world knows what is wrong with them or us.
There is little joy in Mudville or Nashville or Clarksville or most of the "villes" of this world. Christians are supposed to be filled with joy in the Lord (I do not say this as demand for us to be happy but seeing joy as a reflection of God's grace at work in our lives). We are to overflow with joy and peace and contentment because we know the unsearchable limits of God's awesome grace, mercy, and love in Christ. We find that this joy must compete with the culture of dissatisfaction that is all around us. Truth is sometimes the Lord wins out and we abound in peace and sometimes the press of the world and our own sinful natures steals away our joy and leaves us with only the cancer of dissatisfaction to eat away at us.
I think we spend too much time trying to identify what is wrong and not enough time speaking of what is good and right and true and wonderful for those who stand in Christ, the beloved of the Lord whose love has redeemed, restored, and forgiven us. Seeing ourselves through the lens of Christ means being awakened to the joy and peace and contentment that flow from Him to us... and, if we will allow it, through us. How different might our lives be if we spend as much time reflecting upon the goodness of the Lord who has bought us back from sin and its death to be His own and live under Him.... as, say, we do complaining about Washington or the state of the economy or the uncertainty in the world... We will never know until we try it...