Monday, August 10, 2009

May it Never Be "Me, Myself, and I"

[It's been almost 6 weeks since I last wrote, and it may be another few weeks before I write again as we're preparing to go on vacation next week... but I felt compelled to share this, so here it is. ~Jess]

Since watching "Into the Wild" (a film I will not hasten to watch again, for many reasons) in July, I have been pondering many things about "Alexander Supertramp" and his fateful existence:

  • Selfishness is a severe, life-impacting character deficiency. -- Again and again, Chris (aka "Alexander") turned away from people who cared about him to "prove himself" and "live for himself". He did so recklessly-- not even taking a compass or having really educated himself in the ways of wilderness survival. But in his intense desire to live life "honestly" as he called it, he did so quite selfishly. The people he presumed to instruct and teach about "love" and really living sadly knew more about love and life than he would ever know.
  • Life is not meant to be lived alone.-- Extreme individualism flies in the face of not only most of the world's cultures (which usually place much higher value on community than American culture does), but also in the face of biblical culture. More on this in a minute.
  • A troubled childhood can really screw up a person. --Young men who grow up without learning how to be a man nearly always struggle mightily as they reach manhood; the same is true for young women, although with the cultural god of feminism, I'd bet that more young women than men think they know what the goal is-- whether they're accurate in the ultimate goal of life is less likely.
There are problems in every church, every family, every home, every culture, every life. But one thing I really like and value about God's designs of both church & family is that they are intended to combat the very problems that play out in this film. Families are designed to work out kinks of selfishness, extreme individualism, pride, and arrogance ... and in the family, young girls watch and learn how to be ladies, and young boys watch and learn how to be men. Churches of believers support and challenge other Christians and families to learn the ways of love, kindness, encouragement, one-anothering. NOT that we always do a good job of it. But community is God's design... and for good reason.

I loved seeing my son opt to use his 25 piece coin to let his sister do a ride rather than buy gum for himself the other day. Not that he always makes such choices, but I am thankful that, over time, he will have many opportunities because he is a part of our family to display kindness and selflessness. I pray that he'll learn to value the joy of another and learn how to translate into his own joy, rather than primarily seeking his own way.

And I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn from people who are very different from me, because we are part of the body of Christ. Amy left the busy life in Florida to move out to a farm in Amish country. MaryGrace has foster-to-adopted children and always makes me think. Barbara is Catholic and has twelve children. Sara has dreds and a young family and likes (occasionally) living in an RV. All different without a doubt, yet we all love and follow Jesus. And these are just my online friends! :) In my real-life family and in our real-life church, there are introverts and extroverts, servers and exhorters, teachers and pastors. There are females and males, young and old. All of us different. All of us wanting our own ways. And yet we all are better for learning to love and serve one another rather than having been off on our own, independent and unattached.

God did not mean for us to walk away into a wilderness by ourselves. The entire world was perfectly created and called good. And yet, even as perfect as it was, it was incomplete -- the one thing wrong was that there was no community. No relationship. So God made woman. He told the man and the woman to multiply-- to make more people to learn to love and to reflect God's glory. Men and women, in our biology and desires, need one another. He designed a woman's body (both through carrying the child and nursing the child) so that human contact is necessary. He designed the family for children to learn relationships from the very beginning, and for adults to grow in their abilities to love and sacrifice for others.

Then He sent His Son, Jesus. Aside from a few times of rest or fasting, Christ lived 30 years in family and community, and 3 years in daily, moment-by-moment contact with friends. He lived in love, died in love, sacrificed Himself in love, and then commanded His followers to continue on as the church in love. Unity within His church is what's to be most shocking to outsiders. The church is a place for refinement, sanctification, spiritual growth-- learning to love (1 Corinthians 13 defines the characteristics of "love" in ways that are, basically, the complete opposite of "selfish").

In His Word, we often find that the most beautiful stories are those with deep relationships-- Ruth & Naomi, David & Jonathan, Esther & Mordechai, Hagar & Ishmael, Jacob & Rachel (& Leah), Elizabeth & Mary, Solomon & his Shulammite bride, Paul & Silas, Joseph with his brothers, Bathsheba and Solomon. All had pain. All included heartbreak, let-downs, near-misses, close escapes, tragic sin, misunderstanding, and/or grief. And yet, through these beautiful stories, we see God's beautiful design for human life to be lived IN RELATIONSHIP.

Though "Into the Wild" is not a movie I would recommend for others or want to see again anytime soon, I am thankful that it presented the opportunity to think deeper about the real meaning of life... not getting away by one's self and shoving off the world, but being IN the world, LOVING others, EMPTYING me of myself and EMBRACING the life of sacrifice and true love that Christ modeled.


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