Archive for July, 2011

Better Late Than Never or A New Way to See Society

Derek Webb said it right when he admitted that “I am a mockingbird, I have no new song to sing.” How easy it is to simply take in the beliefs and passions of others as ours, transforming ourselves into something that was actually dreamed up by someone else.  This needed to be said, to give context to what I am about to process through.

I am coming to this late in the game, for sure. There are others within my own family that have already had these thoughts. I simply am the one that got the chance to experience it first… and sort of by accident. I never have been original. So often,it takes me seeing others passionately care about something in order for I myself to be stirred.

My family is a living contrast. My parents have always lived at a higher standard of living then most of the families we worked and served with. Money is the thing tearing my parents apart. My father wishes to be freed from the enslavery to the dollar, and wishes that life could be more organic and meaningful. The poor man is stressed out and worn down from trying to maek “enough” money… and he left always coming up short. My mother, on the other hand, is enslaved to consumerism. Her way fo showing love is through actionds and gifts, as it is too hard for her to put into words how she feels, and she hates emotionalism. These are not bad things, at all. But this internal make-up has left her susceptible to being consumed by consumerism. She spends so much money with good but misguided intentions. She has a the gift of giving and hospitality, truly. What she does not have is a strong belief in simplicity or frugality. She used to, but I strongly suspect that consumerism and loneliness have left those particular values a bit unused and ignored.  I don’t blame her, or view her as a bad person for this. Please don’t read it as that. I love my Mama, dearly, and have often benefited from her propensity to spontaneously gift others.  But the fact of the matter is that my parents aren’t happy… and that money has definitely played a part in that. They are being pulled apart by money, and money is stealing their joy. They have a good amount of money, and their lives aren’t any better.

In contrast, you have my brother and his wife. Life has given them passions and goals that do not really guarantee them a fortune. In fact, it is quite true that they will probably always live in a way that each paycheck is rejoiced over and creatively stretched each month in order to just barely cover the cost of their lower-income home and groceries. They are frugal by necessity. They simply do not have the money to be consumers. They are both content in this, because they learned in college the hard lesson of what happens when you spend without thought, racking up debt on their credit cards. They are comingto the place where they will soon be freed from the enslavement to the monthly payments to credit companies, but the lesson is still strong in their minds. They dream and envision a life in their future that remains free from consumerism and independence. They have a garden that they expand each year, and they try to shop only in local and ethically maintained grocers, and they dream of living in a community where interdependence and conservation is highly valued.

Similarly, I have a brother-in-law and sister who also dream of interdependent living that is freed from the pursuit of things and objects and independence. While they are not in need financially by any means, they live as simply and frugally as possible. I remember one time asking my Ma if they were okay financially, because I was worried about them and they were expecting another child. My Ma laughed and assured me that they were actually fine financially… they just highly valued living as frugally as possible. They also have a garden, and try to cook and eat as organically as possible.  Simplicity. Sadly, they are not content, either. They both have jobs that pay the bills… but neither are necessarily passionate about. My bil has confided that he would love to quit his job, find land to live on where they could grow all their own food. He dreams of also building multiple living areas on this land, and inviting people who are struggling to make it in this consumer-driven world to come live on his land. Together, he wants to build a community that lives off this land, supports each other, and actively lives in a way that counters our current society.

It seems my entire family dreams of community and simplicity. To think I grew up in this, and am only now catching on is a testiment to my own self-absorbtion and thickness. As I feel my mind changing, and passions within me start to build, I see so clearly how unoriginal I am.

It’d be easy to miscontrue my own life and way of living as though I’ve had these same convictions and standards all along.  The truth is, this is not the case. I have been embarassed and jealous of others, and the things they own. I am guilty of following after and covetting things because of a trendiness or percieved societal value, and not because I had any strong convictions in concordance with them. I am entering this train of thought humbiliy, knowing that I have missed it for too many years and wary of my propensity to follow others and take on other’s passions instead of cultivating those same passions myself. I am doomed to always be a  follower first, then a true believer.

My true feelings? I am discontent. I have seen the effect chasing money has had on my parents, and the have experienced myself a small amount of the stress having no money can create. I’ve seen friends struggle with not being able to pay bills or find housing that they could afford that would also be a safe environment for their children. I see and feel for the brother in law who has the job that pays the bills, but leaves him empty. Currently, I’m living in a home with people who see a new way to live, and are trying to figure out how to create a new society. It feels almost like I’ve found the answer to a question that I hadn’t even formulated or asked yet. It’s almost as if God has led me here… stripped me of my ability to consume as much as I have wanted in order for me to be able to see that it is in fact better this way. So I can’t say that I have chosen to live simply, and have now found my place in a community blah blah blah. God has ordained that I live simply. Why? What will this lead to? I don’t know. Maybe He is to use me in order to help free my family from the constraints of money. Maybe I’m just the vessel. A blind, selfish, and unaware vessel. I deserve no accolade if that’s the case. I’m just glad that my eyes are finally opening to it. I’m willing…though it seems God may have used me regardless.

I don’t know. It’s as though the light is coming on in my mind… but slowly. it’s only dimly shining right now and impatience may actually snuff it out. I just needed to write out the truth, lest I fall and try to misconstrue the facts to make myself look like some cool new revolutionary or something.  God is doing something, and it could be big… and it’s all Him. All Him.

What if He wants to redeem and free this family, this community, this world from a society and way fo thinking that leaves so many empty, broken, and disenfranchised?

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