After finishing high school, I went on a 6 month adventure. It was incredible. I was blessed spend 6 months travelling through South America, England, Spain, Israel, Nepal and Thailand. I had the opportunity of experiencing vastly different cultures to my own, and I got a taste that Western culture isn’t the only way to live your life.
That trip changed my life. One of the biggest changes was that I stopped taking things for granted. Ever since, I’ve been repetitively challenged to think deeper than “what to do”, but rather, “why do we do what we do?”
I started questioning daily realities that I’d never paused to think about before. Some were only small things, but some are still huge wrestles. For example:
- Why do I feel a need to have nice clothes?
- Is it actually important to shower everyday? (it probably is if you ever want to get married)
- What purpose does social media actually serve?
- Do we need half of the stuff that we own?
- Are actions or motives more important?
- Where do my desires come from?
- Am I only a Christian because of my family or culture?
Who are you most similar to?
I begun to see how different voices are jostling to tell me how to live.
Maybe the most obvious one is the media. We are constantly bombarded with advertising. But likewise, as social beings, we think like the groups we surround ourselves with. Proverbs is full of wisdom in this area:
Proverbs 12:26 – The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.
Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
We become like the people we surround ourselves with, because we become like the things we think about.
Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he
I am like my parents. I am like the church I grew up in. I am like my closest friends. I’m becoming more like my wife.
I am like my culture. Instinctively individualistic, consumeristic and comfort-seeking. I have been taught by the media, the internet, by tv shows, how I should think, what I should expect to be normal, how to gauge something’s value.
But in Philippians 3:8 Paul says something that is extremely un-like me.
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
Seriously? He counts everything as loss compared to the worth of Christ?
That’s basically the opposite of how I live.
Two ways to live
Sometimes I wonder if Paul is just some kind of supernatural freak who thinks completely differently to the rest of us. But the more I read his letters, I begin to understand that he knows our struggles.
He knows that we tend to look a lot like our cultural influences – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” Romans 12:2
He also shares how he has learnt to renew his mind – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” Philippians 4:8-9
1) Spend your time focused on cultural trivialities and you will become a trivial person, obsessed with temporary fleeting pleasures, unable to find any real deep satisfaction.
2) Spend your time focused on the depths of God’s majesty and you will be transformed. Maybe together God may start to allow us to see life like Paul does.
All of this is simply my experience! I’m on a journey and I’d love to hear if any of this means something to you. I’d love to hear if you disagree with anything I’m saying. I’m certainly not infallible.
My prayer is that God might continue to give us insight to see what influences us. To see that he has a better option than the “patterns of this world”.
That we may taste the experience of the Psalmist in 16:11
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
1) One of the biggest things I’ve been realising in all of this is that I am so obsessed with little pleasures that I am blinded to God’s goodness.
All of this reminds me of a similar post I wrote on Hunger, where I included this:
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night … If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
2) “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” – C.S Lewis
If you’re tired of feeling unsatisfied, try looking somewhere else. We can continue to fuel our bodies on junk food and become overweight and miserable, or we can start to detox. Begin to walk down God’s pathways, repent of our crap and desperately ask for new life.