There’s a big world out there. We forget that part. Somewhere between back-to-school clothes shopping, Girl’s Night Out, and getting your tag renewed we forget that. We get so caught up in our own spacious lawn that we miss the stretch of hills and valleys beyond it. Our thoughts get convoluted, our schedule gets overloaded, and our list of priorities rearranges. We lose sight of simple pleasures, become more and more easily frustrated, and fall behind the eight ball of mounting demands upon us. Welcome to The American Dream.
Today I was driving to visit some family. I was driving ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit when a car came up closely on my rear. She persisted there as we drove over curvy, hilly roads, but eventually passed me on a double yellow line. As she passed she made angry gestures and pretty sure she almost made this ole sailor blush when I read her lips. This came on the tail end of a stranger’s rude comments in Walmart over the behavior of children in general and how I should keep mine out of his way as he hurried through the store. The day reminded me how so many people rushed along oblivious to the blessings of life, angry over assumed injustices, and how self-absorbed most of society could be. We miss what’s really important in life.
There’s a great big world out there. It so happens to be a place where not everyone is concerned with name brands, manicures, and a perfectly maintained flower bed. Somewhere on a park bench sits a young mother worrying how she will feed herself and her son, where they’ll stay for the night, and if her estranged husband will find them. Across town a lady turns the plate of her Hello Fresh, snaps a picture with the perfect filter, and shares to Instagram her supper for all her followers to see.
There’s a great big world out there. It’s a place where some people will curse in rage at the slow car ahead of them, delaying their pursuit of froyo with friends. They pass quickly and blindly by the homeless man holding a cardboard sign that says, “Jesus loves.”
We get frustrated at slow internet connections, our son’s birthday cake not being just right, or too much laundry that has to be done. We get mad at nuisances we create. Too many clothes to put away because we over-shop, too much yard work because we went into debt for the house with a larger lawn, and an overloaded schedule that we ourselves generated. We worry about where we’ll have our eleven year old’s party and if the decorations will be enough. Everything in life has a theme, an overinflated, trumpeting celebration for the everyday mundane, complete with perfect pictures to prove it happened.
Each moment becomes framed, worrying what others may think, striving to make a good impression, working hard for applause. Life becomes a modeling shoot, focus is aimed at self, vision becomes tunnel-like. Your eyes unintentionally see only you and yours, and that whole, big world out there falls away. A selfish generation, set on success, yet only judging success by the standards of the carnal world. Sounds harsh, right? But I’m talking to myself as well.
You find yourself in a rat race, living each day just like the one before. You go to work to pay the credit card bills, or to save up for a Disney vacation you’ll need another week off to recover from. You never see your friend in need, and you’re too busy rushing to your next appointment to see the family member who needs a hand. Why are suicide rates soaring? Because no one sees the pain of others anymore. How sad.
We get too busy doing the things that don’t matter to see the things that do. Our priorities get out of whack. Our second grader needs all A’s so they can get into a good college, but will they grow up knowing they’re loved even if they get a C or a D instead? Will they feel the freedom to not go to college at all? Will our sons play every sport out there, but miss the lesson of helping out the little guy? Will our daughters wear the most popular, boutique clothing, but never understand that the girl in Walmart duds is really cool to be around?
Will our children expect a truckload of toys on Christmas and Easter, and never know that wonderful feeling you have inside when you give someone your last dollar? Will they understand you’re more than what you do for a living, how much money you make, or even the car you drive? Will they understand it’s how you love others that really matters?
Will we raise children who follow our pursuits for earthly riches, but realize one day they have invested nothing in their eternal life? Haha, it’s all jokes and eye rolls when people talk about Heaven, but who will laugh when everything turns to dust? When you’re old and alone on your death bed will it be that imperfect birthday cake from forty years before that crosses your mind? When you are gone will they say things like, “she always took the best selfies?” Will you be remembered for the cupcakes you took to your daughter’s school? Perhaps your memorial will read “she had really great hair” or “she got everywhere on time.” I hope mine doesn’t say “she always got pissed in traffic,” or “she was excellent at ignoring the needs of others.”
There’s a whole, big world out there. It’s a world where materialistic possessions are few and far between rather than so abundant we gripe on social media about having to dust them all. It’s a world where loving on your family means more than the perfect family photo. It’s a world where a party can just be getting together with people and sharing a good time rather than struggling to pick the perfect, unique theme, stressing over getting enough party favors, and creating the most Pinterest-perfect photo booth ever! It’s a world where people are loved just because they’re people not because they wear Matilda Jane, Under Armour, or real Converse. It’s a world where we teach our children by our actions rather than expecting Sunday School and their teacher to do it. We show them how to love because we love. We teach them how to give grace, love the unlovable, judge not, lend a hand to those in need, and never, I mean never, take a single moment for granted.
We live in a world where each moment is rushed in anticipation of the next great moment. In this we miss it all.
God has great things in store for us all, mighty plans to change the world and the hearts of those around us. We simply allow ourselves to be distracted from His best by the busyness, the minuscule matters, and the window dressing of daily life. The daily grind depletes our passion for the Lord, and the cares of this world choke out our joy. There’s so much more if we can open our eyes to it. And in this realization of what’s really important we see that our focus should be on loving Jesus, loving others like He does, and making Him known to everyone we encounter. In essence, what really matters beyond that? It’s secondary.
Here’s my prayer today. Lord, I pray you give me eyes, humble eyes that see beyond myself. Vision to see my fellow man, an outlook that is pleasing to you, and one that values what you value. May I teach my children your love, may I savor the gifts you’ve given, and may I give abundantly to others. Let me not be distracted from your glory by the things of this world, may I not fall away in favor of that I cannot take with me to eternity. Give me eyes to see what you have for my life, and help me to see your will. May I always remember that loving you and freely giving your love is what sustains me in this life. Help me to remember what’s really important, and not be distracted by the things that are not.