Monday, June 11, 2007

The American Dream?

We went for a long walk in the neighborhood tonight. The immediate neighborhood around where we are staying has some nice houses; actually quite nice I think. They aren't lavish, and don't have huge yards, but most are brick with nice landscaping and are fairly well kept up. But if you cross a little bit bigger road, the houses in that neighborhood are older, classier, and more elegant; in a different league. Many of those homes to me say "old money." They seem like they could have been in the family for several generations; brick colonial style houses with gorgeous beds of ivy, white pillars, lovely windows, and generally a lavishness about them that makes me feel a bit awestruck. I am sure most of them are in the half a million to million dollar range. It is a lovely place to stroll (I've been running there too) and so we enjoyed the quiet and the scenery tonight.

But as we were talking and walking, seeing these amazing homes, it struck me that these people could be thought to be living the American Dream. We passed one particularly lovely home with a BMW parked out front, and in the back window a Duke University decal--all symbols of what many Americans are striving for: a good education, a beautiful home, expensive possessions. And yet, what does it really all mean?

Our reflective mood was also partially prompted by John's recent reading of a biography of John Adams by David McCullough. John really enjoyed learning more about Adams, from Adams' own perspective, since the book included so many of Adams' personal writings and letters. The interesting thing is that for all of John Adams' influence and shaping of American history, Adams, though clearer in his thinking than some of the other Founding Fathers, could not really be said to have a clear faith relationship with Jesus Christ. He spoke of "Heaven" as if it were a being, he spoke of hoping that "Heaven" would see his good deeds and have mercy, but the essence of the gospel was missing from Adams' thinking.

Our discussion reminded me again of the saying that I've heard John Piper quote, though I do not know the original source: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last." Seeing those gorgeous homes with every trapping of wealth, luxury, and status, and thinking of John Adams' life--such a key, influential person who has had a lasting impact on this entire nation--and yet, "only what's done for Christ will last." It's a sobering thought, and a fresh reminder not to get caught up in all the "stuff" of life, but to truly live with intention and discipline, not for this world, but for the next.

That sobering thought is mixed in my heart with a sense of joyful relief. What a relief not to have to strive after the "American Dream," whatever that is anyway. What a relief not to have to worry about getting enough money to be able to afford a home like the ones we saw tonight. And what joy, when we know that all things are ours in Christ, and that our reward in heaven will be more than we ever could have imagined. It's true, I have been struggling a bit lately with feeling "homeless," but even that will pass away and my home in heaven will be that much sweeter.

Be encouraged, dear ones who are living for that permanent home! "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last."


Kevin & Becky Peek said...

A thoughtful post. The quote by Piper (or somebody else) is also good to know. May our lives be marked by work of eternal quality as given by our great Father.

sandra said...

When I think of my friends who live in those...mansions (when you compare them to the housing available in the developing world, but my friends don't know they are mansions)...I just focus on how much space they have which also means how much space they have to clean! I'm much better off in my one-level little flat.