“The American Dream”

This is a topic that I personally have a very difficult time with.  I do love this country and I feel blessed to live here.  I want good for myself and others.  This idea of the American Dream, however, in the many ways it is lived out and defined, seems unbiblical to me.  That is just the way that I see it.

Society tells me to work hard.  To compete.  To win.  To take care of Number One.  To get to the top.  Success is key.  This success is measured by how much money you make, what car you drive, how big your house is, how nice your clothes are…the list goes on.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not trying to judge.  I like nice things as much as the next girl.  I love putting on my pretty dresses.  I think if you really want something you should work hard to obtain it.  I love buying scads of books.  My fiance and I went to register for wedding gifts recently.  I certainly looked forward to it; a whole day searching for all the things we will share in our life together.  Sure, by the end of the day we were somewhat crabby from picking things out (decisiveness is not a strong point for either of us) and my still healing ankle was clearly objecting.  Yet, it was great.  All those nice things sitting there on those lists – it does make me smile.  It isn’t bad to desire a nice life.  But a nice life mostly includes other people.

We have become so thing oriented.  Should I feel guilty for being excited about my bridal registry?  No, that is not the point.  Guilt is never positive.  We will actually need most of the items and our friends and family will be itching to oblige.

I just don’t want objects and status to be my focus.  My interest should be other people.  Not just in a “keeping up with the Jones’s ” way.  I should be concerned with the well-being of others.  The American Dream does not push this idea.  Do your duty, work hard, accrue nice trappings, build up your white picket fence, pop out your 2.5 children, compete with your neighbor on landscaping, and try not to let relationships get in the way of “progress”.

Technology is a great testament to the genius of the human mind.  It has come such a long way in such a short span of time.  It is very helpful.  It is a marvel that we have used ingenuity to build up: So make sure you have a flat screen, a smart phone, a desktop computer (or two), a laptop computer (or two), two or three game consoles…

I am exhausted.  I am tired of feeling like this world wants me to go go go and get get get.

Again, I want to explain that I am not attacking you for your desire to be a gamer or for owning nice possessions.  If you enjoy killing zombies and your standing KitchenAid mixer – trust me, I understand.  More power to you for knowing what you like.  I just want to remind us all that there is more.  People are astounding machines.  I like to spend time with one of those.  The Ultimate 3D Experience indeed.

I think it is wonderful to have a form of ambition, to want to do well.  To have a goal and strive to make it there.  I’m not pushing laziness or boredom.  I am not telling you that if you are in a career or field in which you feel very competent that you shouldn’t try to get as far as you can and do well.  I also know we are not all called to inhabit a monk’s cell.  I am aware.  I’m not trying to keep you from doing something you love.

It’s just that I feel sometimes we forget to relate.  We have all these wonders of social media and networking, so many venues in which to connect, and yet…and yet…

Do we connect?  Really connect?  I know that it is hard to truly connect with people.  I have a hard time with it myself.  I don’t trust anyone easily.  I want to do better.  I want to know people.  To hear their stories.  To see the lines on their face that show the years in their lives.  I want connection.

As a Christian I am called to be in the world, but not of the world.  What exactly does that look like?  Many Christians have their ideas of how to live this out.  Me?  I think it means that it is okay that I’m an oddball.  That I take the road less traveled.  I have no idea what to do with my life.  I do not have a path for a particular career laid out in front of me.  I don’t feel the decision of what to do with my life should solely be based on the size of the paycheck.

Now, I don’t want to be irresponsible with money or time.  That means I do want to find some way to pay my bills and feel like I am contributing.  It also means I don’t want to become a work-a-holic and miss opportunities to love people and spend time with them.  I’m still figuring it all out, but I am trying so hard to find out how to live my life as me in this land of the American Dream ideal.

I love the items on my bridal registry.  I do.  However, if nary a soul bought me anything and I hadn’t the money, I would simply go without.

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15-17

Pride in possessions – I don’t want that.  Pride and lust in many forms are not positive things because ultimately they have a negative effect on other people.  I do not want to hurt people, to cause problems for people, to ignore people.  I would like to think that I value people more than possessions and power.  You – you my reader – are important.  You serve a purpose.  I want my focus to be loving you.  Helping you.  Hoping for you.  I am not perfect.  I live in this society, I’ve grown up with ideas about working and money and all the pretty things.  I never felt good enough to have all that.  It was something I couldn’t reach, but something I was told I should push for.

My faith declares that God finds favor with me.  Success in His eyes is when I show love to other people; when I do something simple.  Smiling at a stranger.  Holding a baby.  Hugging one of the older members of the church who is having a hard time.  Washing dishes.  Praying and thinking positive things for a friend.  Being willing to be open to my fiance.

This world is a mess.  This society has skewed views of success, happiness, beauty, connection, love.  And yet…and yet…

The people in his world?  They are worthy of my help and my love.

I’ll be looking out for Number Two, and Three, and Four…

Loving God and loving other people: That is my dream.

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2 thoughts on ““The American Dream”

  1. Through all my travels here I realized the same thing – people are what matter in this world. I spent a lot of time asking myself why I travel (because as much as I hate to admit it, there are really only so many museums and cathedrals that one can stand in a week)…and honestly? My most cherished experiences here have been random encounters with strangers. I love it. I love people!

  2. Thank you for sharing this post in the comments on my blog! I agree – in the past four years I’ve become happy with considerably less (money/things) and my priorities have shifted in such drastic ways I find I have SO MUCH MORE.

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