Thursday, November 8, 2012

The longing for a simpler life...

There is that wonderful line in the movie RED in which Helen Mirren says to a wounded Bruce Willis character:  "That is why I love you.  You are a romantic.  You are all hard on the outside but inside you are gooey..."  That is sort of the way we are.  We live our modern lives with a certain hardness.  We moan and complain all the time about how busy we are, about the economy and our lack of money, about technology and keeping up with it (and paying for it), about how hard things have become, how cynical we and our culture have become, etc...  We are hard on the outside and inside we all just want to be Amish -- not the ones on reality TV who are kids rushing to escape what they think is the prison of simple life but the adult Amish who know what they have lost and what they have gained by their wariness of modern life and its things.  We are romantic on the inside for an Amish style of life (whether or not that image is real or simply imginary).

We long for a simple life of honest work largely with our muscles and not our minds.  We dream after a life in which our things do not possess us.  We lust for a life when family could play a board game or sit reading together or get all excited over some popcorn.  We look at the packaged food we eat wondering what is really in that stuff and wish we cooked and ate like our great-grandparents with food that was not primarily styrofoam, cardboard, and clear plastic wrap.  We have a romance for the day when you walked more and drove less (a boon given the gas prices and the cost of cars).  We daydream of a time when our kids could head out the door in the morning and come home for meals and we did not live in fear for their mortal lives.  We wonder if there will ever be a day when friends were face to face over appetizers and drinks and a long leisurely meal instead of a clicked button on Facebook.

We are all hard on the outside and carry a thick crust of disappointment, cynicism, distrust, and reluctant addiction to the the things of modern life.  But inside we all just want to be Amish.  Well, we want to be Amish in theory.  But the reality of it all is that we have made our peace and our pact with the devil of harried modern life and we are not about to trade our brand new I-Phone for hitching up the buggy to talk to a friend.  We work hard to pay the freight of modern day life and we wish both husband and wife did not have to work but if not working means giving up some of our hated toys, we are not ready to ditch our things just yet.

It is I think the classic dilemma of sin.  For that is the perfect way to define our romance for righteousness but our insatiable hunger and thirst for the secular, the vulgar, and the personal.  We think we want to be holy but when the path of holiness lays before it, we seem to long more for the comfortable misery of sin and its death.  Redemption is not merely about behavior but about the heart, about desire, about living in reality what is merely a romantic notion -- life with God in Christ.  Perhaps this is why we indulge ourselves so in the guilty pleasures of worship which is more entertainment than Divine Service, with music that is more about personal taste and a good beat than the Words of eternal life, with Church that is the place to go because it is fun more than it is the place to encounter the Living Christ in the means of grace.  Perhaps this is why we say we want objective truth but at the same point in time we don't want to be bound by it or live captive to us -- we want our curious, distracted, odd notions right along side our supposed orthodoxy.

We are romantics who secretly love the reality of today more than we adore the image of a simpler tomorrow.  It is true about faith as well as life.  That is why the battle is so hard -- both the Church's battle to bring the kingdom near to us and our own battle to live in that kingdom versus the comfortable misery of our current kingdom of sin and its death.

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