There has always been something about the American Dream that never quite sat right with my heart.
For two years in college, I was a TA for an American Civilization course and taught along side one of the wackiest communist professors I’ve ever met in my life. (Not that I know a lot of communist professors… but you get the point.) After seeing his view of American politics, I began to attribute my anti-American-Dream / idealistic-socialist viewpoints to the fact that I had worked along side him for so long.
But the deeper I fall in love with Jesus, the more I realize that the American Dream doesn’t sit right with me, not because of Charles Angeletti and his shenaniganry, but because it is essentially in direct contradiction with the life that we, as Christians, are called to live and love.
Here in America, we are taught to value success, as dictated by your bank account or the size of the home that you could one day buy with your spouse and then fill with your 2.5 children and dog. Once we attain this status of “success” we are to spend the rest of our lives buying things from stores to fill our homes. Pretty stuff. Practical stuff. Stuff to put your other stuff in. Stuff to organize the stuff that you have put your other stuff in… I think that we can all agree that we are over-stufffed.
And in this cycle of stuffing our lives with stuff, we lose sight of what is important. The Gospel. The sick. The dying. Those who desperately need clean water or just the love of someone, anyone…
In our relentless cycle of buying and selling, moving up, and out doing each other, we are neglecting our one true calling– to love God’s people, even if that means sacrificing everything we have.
These things– our stuff, our account balances, our job titles and degrees– become not only the way the way that we measure our success, but they also become our affections and ambitions.
As this school year has drawn to a close, God has pointed this out in my own mixed up soul.
For the last six years, everything that I have done has been devoted to either becoming or being a teacher, and now that season of my life is over… and I’m mildly freaking out.
As I pulled my students’ posters and my infamous glitter-glue Jesus painting off of my classroom walls this morning, panic set into my heart.
This is happening.
I am not a teacher anymore.
One of the largest comforts that I have been clinging to within my life here in Denver has officially been shaken up.
I am homeless.
I am taking a job for the remainder of my time here in Denver that has nothing to do with my degree.
Aside from the fact that I have a plane ticket to Alaska for a week in July, I have little to no plans for the next seven months. And even though I’m not a huge planner, my mind is whirling with the chaos that God has placed me within.
But as I stood staring at my blank purple classroom walls, the last part of that sentence rang in my brain: the chaos that God has placed me within.
I am not alone here. He has a plan– a plan that I’m sure is far superior to anything that I could ever think up. I simply need to follow Him and make Him my focal point and the one that I find all of my comfort in.
In 2 Corinthians 6:12, Paul addressed the Corinthian church saying, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.“
As I read this over and over again, I couldn’t help but realize that while God and His will is my affection and one true desire, that I have some secondary affections and desires lingering in the depths of my heart because of the culture that I have been raised within.
I am affectionate toward comfort– a mailing address, a bed to sleep in, you know… the things that I never thought much about until recently.
I am affectionate toward the idea of being perceived as successful and not just as some crazy hippie girl who has gone rogue against society.
I am affectionate toward my job and the idea of being able to use the degrees and teaching license that I slaved away to earn.
I am affectionate toward the idea of settling down in a cute house in Denver with my someday husband and our cute outdoorsy, Coloradoan children.
I want things. Stuff. Comfort. A 9-5 life including volleyball tournaments with friends on the weekends and lots of camping trips in the summer.
I have been sold a dream– the American Dream– and it has seeped into my heart. But God is in the process of rooting that out. I am being called to give up my small ambitions and affections for a life much greater.
Yesterday, as I gardened in the wet mud of the house that I’m currently staying at, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ mud pie analogy from The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with worldly ambitions when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I refuse to remain comfortable here with my mud pie dreams; even if it kills me (which it won’t, because you know… Jesus and stuff) I am going to follow my King. For He is my comfort and my rock in hard times and life tornadoes.
I am going for my holiday by the sea where my teaching license is nothing but a piece of paper and Jesus is my everything.
What are your affections and ambitions? Are you willing to lay them down to follow Christ where ever He is leading you?