So I have these tendencies. After being back in America for two months, I'm reminded how much stronger these tendencies become here. The thing is - I've had this realization before. It's not something new or shocking, I knew this would happen. I expected it. So why am I finding myself still falling into this? I'm slowly falling back into the person I used to be - obsessed with physical appearance, comparing myself to every other person in the room, envying others for what they have, and allowing greed to convince me that I want and need more, more, more.
I could probably blame a lot of external factors for all of these shortcomings. I could easily blame Pinterest for envy, American media for greed, and Facebook for social comparison. I could blame the church for emphasizing teachings on prosperity and peace; and abandoning teachings on fear and judgment. I could blame the people around me for falling into the same things, for not pushing one another more fiercely towards Christ, for not inspiring me to change.
I could blame a lot of things, but the truth is it's me.
It is true that what we allow into our lives can deeply influence how we behave, how we speak, what we think, and what we will become. Ultimately though, we choose what we allow - we choose what we submit to - and we choose what we dedicate our lives to.
That's when I came to Romans 12, what did my version of the Bible decide to title this morning's reading? Just happened to be "Dedicate Your Lives to God." I would suggest everyone go and read this chapter. It is just good. It is just so so good. And I was reminded in this piece of Scripture how fleeting our lives are and the world that we live in - and how eternal God's word is. You guys! His word stays the same now and forever. In a world that is always changing, with technology that moves frighteningly fast, 24 hour news covering changes that happen every minute, and fashion that evolves with every season - we can't comprehend a God and His promises that are never-changing, permanent, and eternal. I know I can't comprehend it.
"Don't become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think." Romans 12:2
I wish I could give you some cool quote on how many times the Bible says "change the way you think" but I can't. All I know is I seem to run into it quite a bit. We are told to live apart from the world - so why are we striving to please it? WHY the heck am I wasting my time and energy trying to figure out the best exercises to get perfect inner thighs and the best products for perfect-looking hair? Don't get me wrong, I believe in self-care...but let's be real, we spend wa-hay too much time on this stuff. This stuff that is just SO fleeting, of NO worth to God, and not affecting ANYONE but yourself.
So maybe it's time to start paying more attention to God's word, let's see what Romans 12 says:
"I ask you not to think of yourselves more highly than you should." (v. 3)
"Don't be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord." (v. 11)
"Don't think that you are smarter than you really are." (v. 16)
"Focus your thoughts on things that are considered noble." (v. 17)
Hm. You know, the saddest part for me in all of this is not necessarily over-consumption or materialism or obsession with physical appearance. I guess the saddest part is that we have allowed this world to brainwash us into thinking there are only certain kinds of worth. We degrade ourselves because we believe certain things are better to have than others. The man who owns a large home is more successful than the one who humbly leads a large family. The woman who owns the best brands and high-end items is "better off" than the woman who can knit and create her own clothes. The student who earns a PhD is more intelligent than the one who dropped out of school to master their artwork or music.
The thing is - never in Scripture are we told that certain gifts are better than others. On the contrary, we are told that we are one body. We are to cherish each others gifts, not judge some as better than others.
"Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.
God in his kindness gave each of us different gifts." (v. 5)
"Be devoted to each other like a loving family.
Excel in showing respect for each other." (v. 10)
I'm so bad at appreciating the diversity of God's body. I so badly want to have one formula for how to be, one formula for how to do things. The fact that there are so many different types of people and ways to do life poses an additional challenge for us as believers. We are not to expect others to be gifted in the way that we deem admirable. Likewise, we are not to place an expectation on ourselves to fit the mold of what others place on us. In both ways I fall short.
This morning I was reminded. I was reminded that I am not here to dedicate my life, my time, my energy to the world. I am here to dedicate my life to God and with that comes the devotion to the unique gifts that God has given me and devotion to uplifting others in the unique gifts given to them. So let's not cut ourselves short, expecting each other to fit into one similar mold. That's boring anyway; and I think if you were to look at God's creation - His crafting of diverse people groups, thousands of unique species, a majestic universe - I think you'll see that His plan was never meant to be mainstream or boring.
"If your gift is speaking what God has revealed, make sure what you say agrees with the Christian faith. If your gift is serving, then devote yourself to serving. If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching. If it is encouraging others, devote yourself to giving encouragement. If it is sharing, be generous. If it is leadership, lead enthusiastically. If it is helping people in need, help them cheerfully." (v. 6-8)
So what are your gifts? And where is your devotion?