Saturday, September 12, 2015
Some blessings are not all that beneficial. . .
We seem to believe more than any other generation that the definition of life ought not to include pain, disappointment, struggle, sacrifice, or anything else that does not conform to our desire to live at peace with ourselves (meaning more our wants and desires).
No generation before today was as concerned about relieving body aches and emotional ills. No generation before today was as preoccupied with leisure and quality of life. No generation before today was as averse to sacrifice and suffering. Christianity has, for many, adopted the pain free, struggle free, problem free life as the goal of God and the real working definition of salvation.
My greatest generation parents worked hard to give me a better life. My generation made up for the guilt of two working parents by indulging our children. The children raised by my generation are not so sure that marriage is worth the cost, the sacrifice, or the suffering and they are pretty sure that children are not. Who knows what the next age of folks will look like.
My grandparents were among the first to embrace the idea of retirement but it meant more the time in your life when you were no longer physically able to work than indulging in leisure. My parents were not much different. My own grandfather died of complications from a stroke suffered at work and my own dad worked until a few weeks before his death, just shy of 88 years old. I have classmates who have already retired and given up the rat race for a life in an RV or golf or some other pass time. My kids will marry at a much later age than my wife and I married. No, I am not being curmudgeonly here but it is impossible not to notice the differences.
How does this impact the church and the faith? As a people, we tend to be less tolerant of pain or unpleasant circumstances than those who went before us. We buy painkillers at the first inkling of an ache. We go to the doctor expecting things wrong to be fixed. We buy all sorts of little blue, white, yellow, pink, and green pills for everything the pharmaceutical companies advertize. We ditch our spouses when marriage hits a rough spot and we settle for a commitment free hook up in exchange for love. We would rather be friends to our kids than parents. We look for work that we love and rewards us more than it costs us in labor. Then when we come to church on Sunday morning we have no patience for St. Paul's suggestion that suffering produces anything good or that grace is sufficient for our all weakness and pain or that it is privilege to share in Christ's sufferings. We want an easy life and have come to believe that it is God's job to make us happy, successful, healthy, and financially comfortable.
It would seem to me that the way the devil is testing our generation is much different than with Job. He is not subtracting things from our lives but raising our expectations so high that we are most certainly going to be disappointed with our life and God's grace unless we get pretty much what we think we want. The end result is that we are more miserable than happy and less content with the abundance that we have. We have too much, we expect too much, and we are impatient when we get anything less than we think we deserve. It would not be fair to blame our parents and grandparents for screwing us up. We did that to ourselves just fine without much help from others. And the result is that the whole Christian conversation is not about sin and righteousness, life and death, a hopeless end and the beginning of hope. It is about me, my wants, my feelings, and my desires.
Isn't it amazing that the folks before us turned out so well given that they did not have fluoride in the water, no seat belts in the cars, moms smoked and drank during pregnancy, kids shared rooms and wore hand me down clothes, we worked hard before we played, and we carried around all sorts of aches and pains. I include myself in this. I want too much for me and I am not very grateful for the abundance that I enjoy. It it not that I have listened to my heart too little, I have listened to my heart too much. That is the only voice I hear. Every sin either begins with or ends up at idolatry. It is the one sin I do best of all.