I love stories about the sea.
From the great novels like Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea to non-fiction works like The Perfect Storm, well-written and vivid tales of the sea seem to bring us close to the vast majesty and mystery of God’s creation.
Part of that mystery lies in considering the great storms which have always churned through the oceans. Nothing carries such awesome and fearful displays of power like a great hurricane or typhoon.
Storms are God’s business; they are just part of the “toolbox” which He uses to accomplish His work on the planet.
Boats are our business. They give us a measure of safety and passage through the great waters.
However, as referenced earlier in this series, sometimes we sail into the danger of the North Sea in boats designed for calm waters and balmy temperatures.
Retrofitting Your Boat
Most economists and other serious and mature experts believe we are well into in a new and long era of economic and socio-political turbulence.
Therefore, many individuals, families, and institutions are facing the crucial need to retrofit their boats for stormier waters.
So, let me suggest some specific “modifications” to our existing boats.
Escape from Consumerism
Just as God uses natural storms in the renewal of earth, perhaps He also uses economic storms to renew our relationship to objects.
Once upon a time, people measured their lives in relationship to God, family and other human beings. Today, many of us use things to calculate the value and significance of life.
Eighteen years ago, Pastor Craig Barnes wrote,
“…we were never created to be whole…What we were created to enjoy is fellowship with God, who alone is whole and complete.
“Nowhere in the Bible are we told that God wants to give us wholeness. What God wants to give us is Himself.” M. Craig Barnes, Yearning (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1991) p. 18.
Many people – even Christians – seek completion in consumerism. They see houses, cars, vacation cruises and the latest electronic toys as the way to fill up the “heart holes.” The myth of “wholeness” described by Barnes is the birthing room for consumerism.
One of the primary markings of consumerism is impulse buying. For some, that means writing a check for a new car when they only meant to visit the showroom. For others, impulse buying is grabbing up that hardly-used treadmill at the garage sale.
Yes, I know that people need cars and exercise. But both of these purchases can be attempts to fill up the bottomless pit in the heart with stuff. That is why it is generally a good idea to wait a week to prayerfully consider purchasing any item which we “just cannot live without.”
I personally believe the economic storm is going to help many escape the clutches of consumerism and return to a proper relationship to God, people, and things.
End the Slavery of Debt
Consumerism often leads people into debt. The average household credit card debt in America has tripled in the past 18 years.
Impatience and self-indulgence can lead us to buy on credit rather than resisting the impulse or even waiting until we have all the cash we need for a purchase.
That often leads us into enslavement (like sexually-transmitted-diseases, drunk driving related accidents and prison).
Debt is slavery (Proverbs 22:7).
Think of it as standing on the deck of a vessel sailing through a turbulent sea. You are chained to a new SUV which is continually rolling back and forth from starboard to port.
Surviving the storm may require you to slip out of the chain.
Downsize houses and cars, sell assets, get a temporary second job – do whatever you must to escape the slavery to a weight which enslaves and could kill, you. Yes, bankruptcy should always be a last resort. But, bankruptcy is better than remaining enslaved.
The crucial objective is to become free.
Find Joy in the Simple and Ordinary
Is it possible that consumerism has also made us captive to unrealistic expectations of living a continuously-extraordinary life?
Writer and teacher Denis Haack has asked (and answered) that question. He bluntly says, “It is pride that makes us go a-whoring after the spectacular and the extraordinary.”Denis Haack, “A Stick Becomes the Staff of God,” ransomfellowship.org. p. 1.
He wisely observes that the “extraordinary” miracles in Jesus’ life and ministry restored people to the blessedness of the ordinary.
For example, in raising Jairus’ daughter from death, Jesus didn’t tell her parents to prepare her for a life of raising others from the dead or other “ministry.” He just told them to “give her something to eat.”
Haack reminds us, “Few things are as everyday as preparing and serving food, and Christ’s command put the family back together in the ordinary and routine that the Creator had ordained fro them from before the foundation of the world.” Ibid., p. 3.
My wife Joanne and I try to live slowly and simply. Over the years, we’ve learned to just stop when life gets too fast and complicated.
Complexity and speed are usually signs that God has withdrawn for a reason or season and that we’re starting to rely on our strength.
In those times, stop! Let the beauty and joy of simplicity return. I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 46:10 – “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”Eugene Peterson, The Message (Colorado Springs, Navpress, 2002). P. 970.
If we can rediscover the joy of the simple and ordinary, we will find ourselves better prepared for the stormy waters.
Generosity is the nature of God. He always gives; He does not hoard. God is a river, not a pond.
Conversely, our fears of insufficiency or lust for things converge to produce a hoarding nature.
But, when we give generously, we step beyond what the Apostle Paul called our “sinful nature” and into the Lord’s giving nature.
I guess you could say that the best way to retrofit our boats for turbulent waters is to reduce our reliance on, and preference for, human creativity and strength.
Return to the One Who is totally unthreatened by – and, in fact, walks on – the water.
Contact Ed Chinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2009 Ed Chinn. Used by permission. All rights reserved.