Is American life killing you? – Acts 11:19-30, Part 1

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Are you ready for the quarantine to be done?  Are you ready to get back to work?  Are you ready for things to get back to normal, or least whatever the new normal will be?  If so, you’re not alone.  At the grocery store last week, my wife, Michelle, rolled into a checkout line with a cart-full. Another walked up behind her with just two items, so Michelle said to the lady, “You can go ahead of me.”  You know how the lady responded?  “Thanks, but I can wait.  What will I do?  Get home faster so I can clean my floor for the fourth time?” 

For some of you now on quarantine for two months, it feels like life is so boring and there is nothing to do and you are missing out!  My kids missed out on their spring sports seasons, and we missed being able to cheer for them. For many of us quarantine life has brought new pressures and a new schedule, and we can be unsure what to do and how to think. The result is that we want quarantine to be done, and get back to what life used to be like.

But I’m wondering if nearly two months of quarantine has caused us to forget what life used to be like.  Is it possible we are remembering differently how things were just a few months ago?

A month and a half before the quarantine, I read an article [1] that haunted me.  I want to read parts of it now to help us remember what life was like. The writer said that the average American, before the quarantine, was:

Enduring some type of chronic illness, over-stressed and rushed, in an unrewarding job, with little or no savings, greatly in debt, burdened by a fat mortgage, has two vehicles in the driveway with a 5 or 7-year loan on each, lots of gadgets and toys to keep you occupied, a huge TV, little free time for yourself due to your career, weekends filled with church and/or senseless entertainment, and a bathroom cabinet heavily stacked with pharmaceutical tic tacs to help cope with the emptiness of it all.

If this at all speaks to you, it’s OK. This is considered normal in America. You are a success. You’ve achieved the American Dream. Your obedience and education and hard work have paid off. Congratulations.

But the problem is that you’re miserable and shallow and quite possibly unhealthy and a little dispirited and you’ll likely die of either heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or suicide in the not so distant future — statistically speaking.

Or you’ll make it to old age with this all too common deathbed regret — wishing you had the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life of what others expected of you.

Despite living in the richest country on the planet with a gargantuan military (and budget) to keep you so-called “safe,” you’re frightened and unhappy more than ever before. Seems your material abundance and chronic hustle and “good citizen” ideals have done nothing for your happiness or well-being.

In fact, this status chasing, security-obsessed, hurried American lifestyle is draining you of your life energy. It’s killing you. It has been for some time. And you feel it.

Anyone remember that feeling?  Or at least some parts of that feeling?  Or maybe you think that we Christians avoid that.  The author goes on to suggest that this has affected Christians too:

Even the devout Christians among us, as far as I can see, are more influenced by our diseased culture than the “give it all away” teachings of Jesus. Christians tend to be up there with the most materialistic people among us, which is ironic because they supposedly follow the teachings of the least materialistic human known to man. The culture of materialism and consumerism is our God. Yes, even among the devout. The cultural programming runs deep and it’s clear to see that our hearts and minds have been severed from the sacred.

Clearly the author is talking about people other people, right? Not us?  Or might he be talking about us?  Maybe a little bit?

He was writing before the quarantine.  I wonder what he would say now that we’ve been forced to live a different existence.  But even now does something remain in our hearts that still needs be shifted?  I wonder if that inner cultural programming is still brewing just beneath the surface. Is it possible that at least some of our cultural desire to reopen the economy is because we’re addicted to the high we got off the American Dream or off of the busyness of life, and we’re jonesing for it again?  Now stuck at home are we so unsettled because we’re with ourselves and our thoughts for the first time in years and we don’t like what we’ve found there?

My wife’ friend who is at home now, off work because of the quarantine, helping her four children with online school.  This woman posted on social media, “Talking to people who absolutely hate the quarantine makes me realize that maybe their old life wasn’t stressing them out as much as mine was!  I am so relieved to not have some of those pressures anymore and am looking forward to implementing some changes when the quarantine is lifted.”

It is really easy to only see the virus as a problem that needs to be solved.  Surely, it is that.  I am praying daily for a vaccine, for better testing, for healing, for protection for front-line workers.  I want the virus to be eradicated. 

May I also suggest that the virus is a solution to the problem.  The virus is revealing things that we maybe have long hidden or buried or had no idea are realities in our lives.  Problems.  Errors.  Inadequacies.  Sins. Bad habits. Busyness. Materialism.  Focus on self rather than on mission.  If so, there is a sense in which the virus is the solution to the problem.

This week we are going to read about some folks who were passionate about the mission of God.  I want us to be inspired by their lives. I know that I am and am hoping maybe you can be too.  Maybe something in the article above describes your life.  Maybe you want to be more committed to God’s mission.  But you feel exasperated.  You wonder, “How do I do it?  What does it look like?”  Ask God to speak to you this week as we study the story in Acts 11:19-30. Then check back here each day this week for the next four posts.


Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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