Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cold Blue Skies

The human race gets used to things far too easily.

When I came back from Africa this past March, the world seemed to be brighter and newer and shinier than it ever had been before. It was so American that it made me laugh—snow and bare trees and nice roads and friendly white people and cold blue skies.

It was wonderful. Very wonderful. But as time went on, and March passed into April and May, something happened.

America was America. It was so different from Africa, but after a while the contrast between the two began to fade. I grew accustomed to having hot water (that blessed thing) and 24-hour electricity and seeing “white people” every day.

And I find that the more I get accustomed to something, the less I appreciate it and the more I feel entitled to it. Getting “used to” something is, in the end, a bad thing.

And it's not just good things that I get used to. Getting used to bad things is even more dangerous.

Evils such as murder are horrifying and shocking because of their rarity, because we never get used to them. But having lived in a country where corruption is the norm and violence is a given, I can tell you firsthand that getting used to that which is bad only serves to make things worse.

Because when you're used to something, you don't particularly care to change it. After being pulled over for the twentieth time by a so-called policeman, you start wondering if you can ever make a difference. Little by little, we get used to it, we tell ourselves that it's the way things are and we have to just deal with it. And little by little, we stop trying to change it.

Here's the deal: never get used to anything. Never take anything good for granted or anything evil as the norm.

Let every good day be extraordinarily good. The grass is green, and sometimes it feels as if that's all it could be. But if you think about it, it could very well have been brown—so be grateful for green grass! The world is wonderfully new and incredibly old—every day is a new one, and yet nearly the same as the one before.

I said earlier that the more I get accustomed to something, the less I appreciate it. So perhaps the converse is true—maybe you will appreciate something more if you are used to it less.

And let every bad thing be awful. Never get used to it—never let evil be an everyday occurrence, or sin be habitual. Never let it numb you—never let poverty be a fact of life, never let the world's depravity lull you into thinking there's nothing you can do, never let it callous your heart.

Let good be wonderfully good, and let bad be unacceptably evil—and never get used to either.

Friday, August 2, 2013

On Old People

My grandpa's wheat field in May.
There is a problem with modern teens.

Before I get into the problem, however, let me talk about one particular symptom of that problem: a lack of foresight and depth in today's youth.

This mostly deals with the focus of a teenager's life. That is, we tend to think a lot about temporal things. And whether we realize it or not, we have been deceived into thinking that those things have lasting value.

Video games would be a popular example – but before I use it, let me backtrack here and give a whole lot of disclaimers. I'm not trying to guilt anyone into thinking that they shouldn't play video games at all, and I'm not saying that video games are bad things.

But the point stands that video games have no lasting value. They don't contribute to a person's emotional, spiritual, or relational depth, which is one reason why there are quite a few shallow people in the world.

Things like that crop up all the time in a teenager's life. Even conversation, which has the potential for lasting value, can end up being one long string of meaningless blonde jokes.

A preoccupation with temporal things shows that we don't know just how temporal they are. We have the wrong perspective. We can't see into the future far enough to realize that we had better spend our time on better things.

Of course, this symptom can be caused by a number of things, just like nausea can be caused by both malaria and the flu. And in no way am I stating the primary cause of this shallowness; but I think this is one of the causes.

Very simply stated, young people as a whole don't spend enough time with old people. In fact, we spend so little time with them that we think they're boring, and nothing could be further from the truth.

As a rule, actually, old people are far more interesting than young people. Sorry, teenagers, but you guys are flat-out boring compared to the grayhairs that sit at donut shops on Saturday mornings.

You see, “old people” give us perspective on life. They've gone through a whole lot more than we have. They've learned things the hard way; and we won't have to if we listen to them long enough. They know what sort of approaches work in life and what sorts don't. There are so many things that they've learned that we have yet to learn, and we'll get a head start if we learn it from them.

Because a lot of old people, being so much closer to death than we are, have learned quite a few things about life and what's really important. Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part there are a lot of giants in the faith that young people tend to forget about.

So if you have to pick one thought to take away, take away this one: spend time with the grayhairs. They have stories to tell if only you listen.