Americans are in bondage to many things these days. As we look honestly at our lives we’re working harder and harder and yet our children are going down the tubes at record rates. At a time when our material goods are threatened and our wealth as a nation is draining into foreign coffers we need to remember our origins and our basic heritage as Americans. We’ve been through the ringer before and come out the other side. The past few weeks have heralded the advent of another generational test for the American people, who’ve long live lives of great privilege compared to much of the world. It’s good to look our problems in the eye as more and more people are doing these days but in being willing to look big time trouble in the eye we need to remember that these problems have much to teach us if we open our minds and hearts to instruction.
Here are some reminders about the very real benefits we’ll regain as we pass through the gauntlet of the very real problems now arrayed against us:
Today we’re anxious and so we return to faith. The fear out there is palpable as everyone waits in breathless expectation for the latest news from Wall Street. We get anxious because we’ve been too long under the idea that we’re in control of things instead of God. We have everything we need to manage the problems of this day if we turn to God and Each Other. The real economy, the only one that counts is the economy of love and our circle of loved ones and how we grow that even at the expense of Wall Street.
Today we feel alone so we return to family and friends. I don’t thing personal responsibility and rugged individualism was ever supposed to come at the expense of participation in our community. In our drive through culture with our drive thru dining, prescription service and even our drive by media, we’ve let silly things divide us and we’ve hidden one from another to the disadvantage of everyone. There is something to be said for loving and helping your neighbor but first you have to notice your neighbor! A neighbor is not just someone you wave to in the fleeting seconds after you push the garage door opener and drive in but rather is a fellow human being and a member of your community. In the olden days people helped and socialized with each other, we might get to try that again!
Today we’re concerned about what we might lose and so we return to being thankful for what we’ve got. We take so much for granted from the material things to the community we live in to the God who made us and the idea of noticing what we’ve got, and being truly thankful for it, has become an empty once a year ritual of overeating. We have so much and with all the stuff we’ve got have come an insatiable appetite for more and more until appetite is all that remains. We’ve mistaken the idea of being productive for being fruitful. We’ve forgotten that were supposed to blossom like a fig tree and not pay out like a slot machine. We’ve replaced ambition for ideals and called it virtue while our society and culture degrades with each passing year. When once again our eyes are open and we see how much we’ve been blessed with we’ll rediscover a gratitude that goes far beyond the material.
Today we’re divorced from each other and even from reality and so we return to a commitment to love and truth. What we say, when we take vows, it needs to mean something because when we act on our commitments and the truth we grow as human beings. When we break vows and speak lies we act only on expedience and craven self interest and we end up living in Wall Street world where nothing is as it seems and fear rules our hearts. We let our impulses and craving rule our daily lives instead of being devoted to the discipline of love and speaking the truth. Without a commitment to something truly good our lives become a meaningless quest for a better deal that never comes. We have forgotten the difference between our grandparent’s fine china and the ubiquitous sheet of wax paper that our Quarter Pounder with Cheese comes wrapped in. Where commitment is absent there is no such thing as a better deal because everything loses value with a world view that sees other humans or the truth as valueless to be discarded at whim because what we see does not please us in the moment.
Today we feel as if we’ve been sold into bondage and so we turn to the meaning of freedom and a new quest to obtain it. Freedom is about having a choice about what’s important to you and where you spend your time. Bondage is about going through the motions to create a world where wealth is proof of worth and poverty is proof of worthlessness. When we give ourselves to material acquisition and conspicuous consumption we have sold ourselves into bondage but when we give ourselves to God and each other we find work that’s not servitude and rewards beyond a Rolex watch and a BMW. We can be slaves to the market economy and let it drive us to exhaustion and mental and spiritual bankruptcy or we can drive our market economy by our commitment to each other, gratitude and love and it’s ourselves, who make that choice not someone else.
Today we feel deeply in debt and so we turn to an examination of what real wealth is and what its proper role in our lives might be. We’ve forgotten that real wealth is not about your credit score; it’s about not needing a credit score because of your savings and commitment to live within your means. When you’re in debt, you’re a slave to others but when you’re free of debt, you have a chance to build real wealth. Wealth is about having the resources, because you always live within your means, while credit is about not having the resources, but being willing to enslave yourself to those who do, to pretend to be who you are not. We have confused equality of outcome with equality of opportunity in our personal finances and even in our governmental finances.
Today we’re afraid of the many tyrants and dangers in the world and so we return to courage in facing our fears instead of letting our fears make our choices. We’re confronted by myriad dangers from economic meltdowns to resurgent cold wars to an all pervading sense of purposelessness. Whatever dangers we confront this day from our national dependence on foreign oil to our desire for a $5 Starbucks we’d be better off without lets relentlessly act in accord with our faith in God given values that have never failed us: Let’s face the facts with courage. Let’s understand what’s really important to us and act relentlessly on that. Let’s disregard bondage to easy fixes and rediscover the freedom to take the hard road that actually fixes the problems. Let’s recommit to each other as Christians and Americans and divorce this idea that anyone else is less a child of god than we are and let’s treat everyone with the dignity and respect they merit even if it’s not readily apparent! Let’s be grateful for this day, our family and friends and let’s have the faith to recommit to God and each other our best efforts in whatever comes our way today.
Everything that happens has advantages and disadvantages if we have the eyes to see it. Let’s walk with our eyes wide open and understand that even the hardest of times have advantages that have the power to grant us a new beginning and a renewed commitment to God and each other. No matter how hard it gets we always have a choice, we can always return to God, we can always return to how we know we should live.