Nope, no thanks, not for me. I rather like the American dream. Good jobs, owning a nice house, being financially secure when kids come along, being able to go out to eat, buy clothes, go on vacations. All good things that I'm really looking forward to.
Here was my plan for our American dream, as decided by me upon moving to Tennessee:
1. Deric gets a job. (Check.)
2. I get a job teaching, and we put all of my salary into savings and live off Deric's.
3. In two years of living off one salary, be able to put money down on a house.
4. Buy a house and start fixing it up.
5. Babies. I become a stay-at-home-mom.
6. 18 years later, we pay for our kids to attend college so that they can start their life debt free--a gift that both my parents and Deric's did for us, so we want to do the same for our kids.
That's a solid plan, right?
One problem: We haven't yet gotten past step one.
I've had no luck finding a full-time job. I've looked at all kinds of options: teacher, nanny, assistant director of a preschool, office jobs, etc. So far, Mother's Day Out and substituting are the only doors that have opened.
No job for me means not saving for a house for the foreseeable future. And I surely don't want to have kids before we own a house! Come on, now. Only the best for our future children.
Back to that bright orange book. With some encouragement and prodding from Trinity's blog [go read it--every post is motivating, honest, and a kick in the pants, which is good for everyone], I got up the nerve to read a few pages in Radical. I'd really been resisting this book though-- I didn't want to become aware of my sins, because once I knew about them, I'd have to do something about them. And like I said before, I like the American dream. I want it, and I was determined to stick my head in the sand and go on believing that God's best for me is the American dream.
Let's start with what I read on Saturday night. I can't explain this better than David Platt, the author, so I'll leave it up to him...
[from the chapter, "The Great Why of God"]
In Genesis 12, God forms his people by saying to Abraham, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." Then God connects his promise to Abraham with a deeper purpose: "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." God blesses Abraham abundantly but not for Abraham's sake. He blesses Abraham so that Abraham might be the conduit of God's blessing to all the peoples of the earth. [p. 65-66]
God really is in the business of blessing his people in unusual ways so His goodness and His greatness will be declared among all peoples. Verses that reiterate this truth abound throughout the Old Testament. [p. 67]
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes."
God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on earth. This basic, fundamental truth permeates Scripture from beginning to end. Yet I wonder if we unknowingly ignore the great why of God. [p.69]
We [the church culture] bask in sermons, conferences, and books that exalt a grace centering on us. And while the wonder of grace is worthy of our attention, if that grace gets disconnected from its purpose, the sad result is a self-centered Christianity that bypasses the heart of God. [p.70]
If "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?
God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.
The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period" as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make him--his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness--known among all nations." Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him. [p.71]
God centers on himself, even in our salvation. Remember his words in Ezekiel: he saves us, not for our sake, but for the sake of his holy name.
God is at the center of his universe, and everything he does ultimately revolves around him.
If this is true, we may wonder, then does this make God selfish?
Whom else would we have him exalt? At the very moment God exalted someone or something else, he would no longer be the great God worthy of all glory in all the universe, which He is. [p.71]
The Bible is not saying that God does not love us deeply. On the contrary, we have seen in Scripture a God of unusual, surprising, intimate passion for his people. But that passion does not ultimately center on his people. It centers on his greatness, his goodness, and his glory being made known globally among all peoples. And to disconnect God's blessing from God's global purpose is to spiral downward into an unbiblical, self-saturated Christianity that misses the point of God's grace. [p.71]
I know that's a lot (I basically wrote out his whole chapter), but I can't explain it better than Platt can.
In that chapter, Platt said that when asked to summarize the basic message of Christianity, the average Christian would give you something along the lines of "God sent His Son to die for my sins so that I can go to heaven".
Average Christian that I am, I agreed. John 3:16--every Christian knows that. But I too had left out the second half of the message: we're saved so that we can spread God's glory. It's not about me. Duh.
I find it sad that I've been a Christian for over ten years, and those ten years have been spent focusing on me with God as the blurry background. Not focused on God (although I thought I was) but focused on my life, my struggles, my sins, my passions.
God, save me. God, help me. God, bless me. God, keep me safe. God, give me good things. God, what do I do with my life? God, bless my plans for my life. God, keep me comfortable.
This realization of my self-centered version of Christianity has been plaguing me since Saturday night. That's a good thing-- I need to be disgusted by it so that I change how I think, and change my focus.
This alteration of my mindset will be a process. It'll suck too. I like thinking about myself. But deep down, I'm glad that I am not the center of God's attention.
"God blesses his people with extravagant grace so that they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth." (Platt, p.69)
I'm pretty sure this is the beginning of giving up my American dream for God's purpose for my life.