The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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The Contradictions of our Unhappiness

Recently while thumbing through my index cards of quotations, I found several with a similar a theme: modern contradictions.  But the observations of the various authors were not about the contradictions only; rather they were about the unhappiness the contradictions represented.  We live wit ht he illusion that we can have it all, never noticing how foolish our expectations are.  People – average people like ourselves – want things which cannot be fulfilled at the same time.  And the result is unhappiness.  We are reality-challenged and, thus, happiness deprived.  Maybe a look at some of the contradictory forces in our lives might help us.

Daniel Boorstin describes the extravagant expectations” of our culture:

We expect anything and everything.  We expect the contradictory and the impossible  We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical.  We expect to be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind and competitive. …we expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly, to go to the church of our choice and feel its guiding power over us, to revere God and to be God.

Never have people been more the masters of their own environment.  Yet, never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed.  For never has a people expected so much more than the world could offer.  (from The Image, p.4, written in 1962!)

Leonard Sweet talks about “contradictory consumers” in The Gospel according to Starbucks:

“Contradictory consumers” are going in opposite directions at the same time.  We go from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to the organic salad bar or raw juice bar.  Or we stay at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, where in the evening there is the decadence and extravagance of the Tao Nightclub, while during the day there is the Canyon Ranch Spa Club—both of which are trumpeted as spiritual experiences. (p. 41)

Then comes the crowning, spiritual observation by Pastor Mark Buchanan, who is quoted by Dave Burchett in When Bad Christians Happen to Good People:

They want human closeness without feeling cramped or obligated.  They want a personal God who doesn’t ask much personally.  They want mystery but in a controlled, non-disruptive way.  They want a faith that is fulfilling, practical, earthy, tolerant, transcendent, fun, empowering, morally serious without being morally demanding, a faith that restores wonder and deepens intimacy, and they don’t want it to cost too much or take up a lot of time. (p. 201)

Do you see yourself in those descriptions?  I see myself.  Maybe we need a few moments of reality that is not shaped by unreal TV, the impossible peer pressure of our friends, or the desires of our children who are responding to their own peer pressure.  Maybe we have to choose between 20- hour days and feeling rested; between 4 seasonal events for the children and not screaming at them to get in the car; between all the new opportunities for sports on Sunday and a spiritual foundation for our children – and for us.

Do we really wonder, given our choices, why there is no more silence in our lives?  Why we have so little with which to be generous? So little time for God?  Why we have full calendars  and unfulfilled lives?

Read the contradictions again.  We want it all.  But it really isn’t possible is it?  Too many of our desires are mutually exclusive.  Therefore, Consider these three observations:

From City Slickers

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean ****.

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

 From Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart: “The Purity of Heart is to will one thing.”

From Jesus: “Seek first the Kingdom of God…”

Happiness does not come from having it all; rather, from knowing what is worth having.

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