Saturday, January 9, 2010

Paradise Falls

"I wonder what my Paradise Falls in my life will be"

A singular quote from a text message conversation I had with my best friend tonight. Up is a great movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It is also an emotionally powerful movie, which plays off a reality most people tend to ignore; our dreams may never come true.

For the past few years, I have spoken at length to anyone who would listen about our cultural tie to the American Dream and how we must inevitably face its death. I think I have spoken so much on the topic that it has become old hat for me. It doesn't tickle my fancy as much as it used to. But the conversation tonight lit a spark, and I wanted to capture it before it was lost.

We all have our own American Dream. That's what is so tantalizing about it. It's not just that we all have one, and it is personal and personalized to us, but because we have the wealth and opportunity to believe it could all happen. The American Dream has never seemed more real. It has never been more within our reach. And whatever our dream is, we have become slaves to it and the hope that it may one day come true.

We have been given a moral directive to pursue these dreams. We should pursue our dreams, otherwise we let ourselves down. We become "untrue" to ourselves. We must seize the moment! We cannot waste a minute of our lives. We must live to the fullest. It is the lie of the devil to convince us that heaven can be attained on earth so we will not need or want a Heavenly Father. Anything He can offer us then pales in comparison to the great dream we have built for ourselves here. At times, it can be astonishing, and downright embarrassing, how easily we are fooled and led astray from what is good to what we hope to be.

But the dream eventually fails us. The illusion will eventually become exposed. Whether it is now or 50 years from now determines the course of our life. Will we continue to be a slave to our dream? Or will we give it up willingly and pursue what we are being led to? Shall we continue to kick against the goads?

This is not my intended post on "Home," but I find that this topic leads into it well. It may also be that I am too ambitious in the territory I want to cover with that post. I may have to break it up into pieces.

What will your Paradise Falls be? You may already be chasing it.


  1. Themes of American Dream, idolatry and pain continue to surface in your writings. Apparently these are concepts/issues close to your heart; I thought the entry deserved more than my initial, 5-word response. Second try.

    Following is an excerpt from Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods:

    "The old pagans ere not fanciful when they depicted virtually everything as a god. They had sex gods, work gods, war gods, money gods, nation gods - for the simple fact tha anything can be a god that rules and serves as a deity in the heart of a person or in the life of a people."

    Has the humanity evolved much? Evidences everywhere discourage such optimism. Perhaps differently manifestated/packaged (e.g., 'American Dream'), but the core remains solid. Almost comically static.

    Would be nice if we all had a constant sense that being Christian is not an accessory to this life that we can take on or put off, but that we live with the perspective that nothing we have-- not our accolades, our degrees, our families, our material possessions, our careers-- will come with us. They may bear heavenly fruit, but they, I believe, will be transformed-- particularly with regards to the way we invest ourselves in the advancement of God's Kingdom in the here and now. But the way we invest in the advancement of the Kingdom is not the same as how we might invest in a certain stock or company, but in asking what lasts beyond the grave and working towards these ends, not merely the things that are needful but the things that really are eternal.

  2. =) Now you've got me curious about your 5-word response.

    Thanks for the comment.

    You're right. These issues are near and dear to my heart. And perhaps my ever-forthcoming post on "home" is just the next step of evolution of these thoughts; I have come to realize that there are common threads through my recent posts that could all tie in to the topic.

    I can think of two defining moments in my adult life. The first was bowing my head and calling Jesus my Lord. The second, was really more of a 3 year period where I learned to wrestle with the death of my dreams, to embrace suffering, and to give up my identity to Christ. I wish I could say that the former was more impactful than the latter; certainly the latter would not have been possible with Christ. But I know the effect of this 3 year wrestling; it has undeniably altered the trajectory of my life.

    Also, semi-colons are in season today. Get 'em while they're hot.

    I have come to believe that this process is necessary for people to transcend childhood and enter into maturity. I have also observed that shockingly far fewer people have wrestled with this process than I expected. If my theory holds, the conclusions are discouraging.

    I'm curious to your meaning of a solid "core" of differently manifested gods and idols. Typically, these gods and idols are portrayed as purveyors of excess. However, modest and appropriate consumption/pursuit of these things (wealth, sex, family) are generally considered acceptable. A person can have a reasonable dream of having a life long companion, a happy family and a secure life. There may not actually be a sin in that dream or even in the desire of it. However, I believe it is the value of this dream, the potential coveting and idolatry of it, that sets it apart.

    You are right, in that if we are able to obtain the mindset that nothing can be brought with us into the next life, we could more easily let it go. But to do this requires more than a belief in a higher power. It requires the trust and belief that this higher power is good. And that His plans for you are good.

    CS Lewis once described the testing of faith and trust in this way: (my paraphrase) You may look at a rope and say "Yes, this is a good rope. It is a strong rope. And certainly it will carry my weight and more." But if you are then told that you will be hung from the edge of a cliff by that rope alone, your trust in that rope is suddenly littered with holes and doubts. Until you are in a situation where you are put to the test, you will never know the strength and integrity of your faith.

    I believe a person must endure significant loss and grief and wrestle with hard questions before they can know if they truly believe that God is good. And until a person knows that the God he or she is following is good, how much of his/her life can be reasonably entrusted to Him?

  3. um. In rereading, I see that I might have come off sounding a lot stronger and judgmental than I had intended to. I'm sorry if this was offensive.