Growing up in rural Nova Scotia in the 50’s was a blast. Post war North America had its challenges, but hey, we were on the road to change. The nuances of the family model, the dynamics of sovereignty over liberty and the rush to modernize a society, shaken by economic and philosophical disasters, were all part of the great picture. Wow… that was a mouth full. I wonder if I actually know what that all means. Ha… In other words… there really was change in the air. That generation wanted something better for family, and was willing to go over their heads in debt and competition to do so. They felt the inalienable right to freedom and were willing to do whatever it took to keep it… that was after 2 world wars… never to be fought again. Who knew… wars had been going on since Cain and Abel and for all the wrong reasons and are still going on today! What about those “Holy Wars”… now there is a conflict of terms. Again I digress. Like no other generation for decades, we had the options that were now available to us for good health, good schools, better homes, new cars… and STUFF!
It was all part of that time. I am not sure when someone penned the term keeping up with the Jones’, but I am certain it must have been early on in “Biblical terms” for sure. What we often failed to see, was the constant barrage of “one-upmanship” that was taking place. Oh, I don’t mean to say that we were totally unaware of it, but with contempt for past struggles from our parents, youth now labouring to make a difference and the eyes of a new generation of youth opened to all there was to ask for “now”, what an impact change made. Why back then I even thought some of my neighbours seemed to be able to get it all. Of course I could too, but on a different level or so I thought at the time. What we couldn’t see was the internal struggles that all these changes created, on all parts of family and society… some good and others not.
I loved the story I heard some time ago. An old lady who came to the grocery store was confronted by a young clerk who seemed to blame past generations for all the ills of the “now” generation. The little old lady defended herself with the joys of a simpler life and expounded on the variety of hardships that were just a matter of course for her youth… Well… maybe you had to read it yourself to appreciate the validity of its argument. Each generation seems to somehow love to place the blame elsewhere in some quarters of life. Somehow we forget that each generation has its dose of the “gimmies”. We want to have the “better” life, the healthier body, the more secure future and sometimes are willing to pay the piper to exact the price. Oops… did I digress again? LOL
I’ve been sitting here with my Bible, reflecting on those ideas this morning. Yes, even former Pastors need to refuel and keep their eyes and hearts tuned to God’s will, every moment of every day. I was reading about Paul’s take, as he writes back to the people in the church in Galatia. It seems to be that there is a personal responsibility that must always be considered in daily life. There is no sweeping that charge under the mat, and it creates a pile of stress for many people in a “me” society. I know that many would say, “it is where we are today, but hey… let’s not ignore our past generations completely.” It seems that too often we somehow get caught in those old ideas, that things were better back then or the proposition that the world has always been going to the dogs. Somewhere in the midst of all this there is the “constant” … the human factor… we’ve always had; that word again… the “gimmies”.
A phrase that has often made me feel a bit unsettled down through the years, found in Romans 12:18, and stated in various ways in the breadth of modern translations is… “as much as it depends on you…”. Wow… nothing like pouring on a bit of pressure here Paul. Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the Bible puts it a bit differently; “… If you’ve got it in you…”. This variation in expressions may help us fathom out (ok so I used a nautical term here, meaning to explore its depths) where our responsibility lies. We have been taught, in religious terms, that God provides the way… He always has, right? Well, yes… but that is not the whole answer. He has always given His creation the choice, the option to follow or get left behind. Some would say, “Where is the love in that?” But God is “Sovereign”; not like our childhood desire to be “king of the castle”, and He does have a way of exacting His will and it is His right to do so, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I know those are somewhat archaic terms to many, but nonetheless important in our dialogue here. I know there is not a parent out there who has not experienced giving their child a rule or guideline and then stood by, knowing all along that the child would do whatever they wanted behind their backs, while saying nothing, so the child will learn from their mistakes. We bring children into this world and we do our best (I hope) to guide them to that which will enlarge their lives in positive and moral directions toward a better life… and if we have known the “Truth” we will have undergirded it with Christ! So why do we get excited when God says “no” and then lets stuff happen. He is the parent of humanity! One day, the Word tells us, whether we are ready or not, there will be a face to face with life… not past, but eternal. God, for His reasons, gets His way and all He has asked of us is love and obedience.
Personally, I sometimes wish that the matter was out of our hands all together. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and never have to worry about the problems of this ol’ world? From the planet’s hungry, to the disappearing rain forests and the melting of the polar caps; not to mention the little things that annoy us and cause those moments of grief from day to day, or perhaps a few of those grey hairs that appear from nowhere, once the crawlers turn to toddlers, then to teens while they are still only 10, and so on. Life in general can be hard to handle. Even the workplace is no longer a safe haven in terms of a guaranteed security as the dynamic of change creates a “fluid society” in every aspect of that term. Everything is in motion and that fluidity can cause economic growth and decline in almost the same breath. But, life and faith does not work that way. When things fall apart we still go on and I see that being necessary in practical terms, as well as faith, being lived out every day.
It would assist us to re-read the tenets of our faith from time to time. I love the portion that James writes in chapter 2, verses 14 to 22. He reminds us there that we don’t have the freedom or the right, to close off the rest of the world and live just to ourselves. There is no escaping the accountability that is always before us, in terms of our love “shining forth” in more than a few kind words (and for those of us who love to go the extra step and add to that a warm hug) before ushering the “wanting” of this world on their way.
So, it seems that every day there will be the tide of responsibility before us. Changes needing to be made will seem to be insurmountable, for the leadership in business, the political arena, but also in the home. My thought is that it took us generations (innumerable) to get to this state and it may take a whole lot more to straighten it all out… not taking it back to a simpler life with a primitive lifestyle, but saving and restoring, if possible the goodness that is a given potential. Here comes that kicker... It is tied to that phrase that can upset the weary and challenge the busy, “As much as it depends on you!” That’s the hardest part of all. It is more like living on the edge than anything else I have experienced in daily life… not bad; it just depends on how you define the view, and in this case the responsibility, from there.