Wednesday, February 11, 2009

American Values

I am a proud American. I am grateful to have been born in a place where I can vote, own land, and worship God anytime I want. I love this country.

But lately, I have realized myself personifying the "American values" I am less inclined to smile about- gluttony, excess, self-centeredness, ingratitude, wastefulness, prideful independence. These are what the rest of the world considers us to be about. These are the values often shown in the media, and sadly, this time they may be right. We may think much of the rest of the world dislikes us because of one or two political decisions, but maybe there's more to it than that...

I am ashamed for what I am about to tell you, but sin can only live in secret, so I am sharing with everyone. The other night I was talking to someone about how I wanted to upgrade a piece of non-essential electrical equipment. Here I am, ready to leave to serve some of the world's poorest people, and I was essentially whining about wanting more.

Mid-sentence, I stopped. The Holy Spirit had completely convicted me, and I asked those around me what I was thinking! (crickets...)

This got me thinking about how often I hear the words "I want" or "I need." It got me thinking about how often I say those words. As we've begun to pack for Namibia, it has been challenging to decide on what we actually need. As we will only take 4 pieces of luggage for a whole year, we are forced to prioritize our "necessary" possessions. Think about it: how many pairs of pants do you need for a year? shirts? pens? cough drops? There are so many things we don't praise the Lord for on a daily basis, because we have easy access to them. For example, if we want to make cookies, we have to bring chocolate chips with us, because they are not available to buy in Africa.

Although most Americans can not imagine living out of 4 bags for a year, we will look gluttonous to some people in Africa. We will be considered rich no matter what we bring. In truth, we would be allowed to bring a total of 6 bags, but we feel it is important to live as closely as possible to those we are working is a small sacrifice, especially knowing it is temporary.

Honestly, I am not even sure I can determine what we actually need to survive. Allegedly, one can live upwards of 40 days without food; however, I don't think this would work well while doing physical labor in Namibia. Since nudity would be frowned upon, how long will one T-shirt survive- 2 months of daily wear? 2 years? What I am sure of is this: our closetful of clothing is not necessary for survival.

I endeavored to count how many times I think "I want" or "I need" in a day; unfortunately, I lost focus. Then, I decided to search the internet for the number of times per day the average person thinks of needs or desires. Isn't it ironic that, on the same internet where we can find information about billions of different subjects, not one description that showed up was applicable. Not even one.

It will be a culture shock to leave the excess of America for the simplicity and lacking in Namibia. But I imagine it will be a far greater challenge to return. In fact, Josh has banned me from touching our storage unit for the first month that we come back, for fear I'll give everything away.

To me, material possessions, status, money, power, achievement, people-pleasing... these are all things that distract me from God. I want to know Him with all of my being; with every breath I take, I want to glorify Him. Instead, I find myself worried with having enough, or getting what I deserve (another post for another day), or what someone thinks of me. I am being brutally honest here, people. That is not glorifying to God.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, and a question:

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today,
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips,
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I don't have the answers, just lots of questions, but I ask you: how do you stay in the world without becoming of the world?


Kelly @ Love Well said...

I have so much I could say to this post, but I believe that would be called "hijacking a blog." So I'll refrain from spilling it all.

But you did remind me, once again, that I never e-mailed you the link to the blog of my friend Planet Nomad. She's the one in Africa. Check out ANYTHING under her culture shock category, and you'll get some great stuff.

(Oh! And Josh? Nice move on the storage unit.)

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