I therefore… beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. (Ephesians 4:1 & 7 NRSV)
Get me out of here?
I am always up for a good movie. The problem is that I never know if the film is good until I actually watch it. I recently received a film via the mail in the familiar red package from Netflix. It came recommended by film critics; the actors and the director were accomplished academy award winners. It was supposed to be the kind of movie that someone like me should like, but I didn’t. While the film tried its’ best to be shocking and deep, it turned out to be an unimaginative succession of stereotypes and had nothing to really say at all. The film was about a happy young couple whose life becomes a train wreck because they decide to move their kids to the suburbs. This film belongs to certain genre of film popular these days that likes to point out how suburban American life is supposed to be empty. It is as about as realistic as films that always depict our cities as “urban jungles” or rural areas as populated exclusively with “rubes”.
I have spent the last 15 years ministering in Northern New Jersey the last 13 of which have been in the suburbs. I have seen that the life characterized in films such as the one I recently saw is a fiction with little connection to the lives people actually lead. It communicates this lie: the place where you live gives your life meaning. It is a lie because where you live matters less than who you are living with. It is the relationships we have with God and others that give our lives true meaning. Those who walk with Jesus find meaning and purpose in their lives no matter where they might live. Certainly the life I see today going on in the suburbs in which I have lived in is not empty. If anything our lives might in fact be too full.
A Meaningful Life
This leads me to discuss another lie of our culture: a full life is a meaningful one. Don’t we say upon a person’s death as a compliment that they “lived a full life”? Life and God’s Word teach us something different; an empty life or a full life is not the point. The point is revealed in the question “what are we actually filling our lives with”? A life filled with real people and real prayer will have more meaning than a life filled with random stuff. According to the Word of God contained in the Bible the place where life happens is not particularly important. How life is lived in that place is what will really matter. How that life will be lived will depend upon who or what we are filling our lives with.
Early Spring Cleaning
When St. Paul wrote to those Christians long ago in his letter to the Ephesians he advocated that we fill our lives with Jesus Christ and those who gather around him He argues powerfully in chapter 4 quoted above that when we do we will find purpose, peace, and solid ground to stand our lives upon. By remaining centered in Jesus Christ we will grow to learn who or what is best to fill our lives with. This coming month we will begin the season of Lent where we get back to what is essential about our faith. It is a perfect time to clean out our spiritual attics and garages of the random stuff that crowds out what is truly necessary to live a life of meaning. It is an opportunity to relearn the basic message of our faith. It is a time to meet Jesus once again and fill our lives with activities guided by God’s spirit. We have a chance to live a life of meaning if we so desire to fill our lives the grace bestowed upon us by his son our Lord Jesus. The message of the Gospel is that there is more than enough grace for all because of what was done at the cross.
Keep the Faith