I have a friend who says he feels like Gulliver, tied down by millions of tiny strings. One or two, or even twenty, might not be such a big deal. He can move around plenty. But all together, he feels stifled. He's asking the right questions, I think. "How do I start cutting strings?"
His self-reflection encourages and challenges me.
Over time, reflexively accumulating the expectations of what it means to grow up and create "a life" for your self, your family, and your future, we submit to strings upon strings. There comes a day many wake up and realize they're suffocating.
I think of the early retiree with lots of money saved up in the bank and plenty of time for boating and golfing. He is finally getting to do all the time what he never had much time for but most enjoyed while he was working. He is still wasting his life.
We're told to save, get our kids in the right schools and extracurriculars, get the right insurance, build equity, invest in college savings programs and retirement accounts, succeed in business. Our churches know these are priorities, so they tell us how to put the Bible's principles to work so we'll have successful marriages, jobs, families, businesses, lives.
It's the American dream. Laying up treasures on earth, I think.
I don't think this is the legacy we're meant to create. The American dream is a testimony of the indomitable human spirit and the triumph of man over adversity. It is a testament to man's iron will, the Protestant work ethic, etc. Because the hero of the American dream is us, it is not redemptive. It is not eternal. And so it is not even a good dream. It is mud pies compared to the holiday at sea.
In Haggai 1:4, the LORD rebukes the nation of Israel: "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"
We don't have to rebuild the temple, of course. But the church in the West is full of Christians who have bought into with heart, mind, and soul the pursuit of erecting "houses" of worship of the human spirit. The American dream bids us build monuments to ourselves and our ingenuity and perseverance. And the dying servant-king bids us come and die. "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your tidy, safe, comfortable, successful, consumeristic, materialistic lives while the kingdom goes ignored?"
We construct temples to house our presence, short-shrifting laying up treasures in heaven, building for the kingdom, making way for the presence of the Spirit.
I think this is the cross of most American Christians. Whether we will take it up remains to be seen.