What do you worship? Because, really, we all worship something. Whether it is the God of the universe, or the puny gods of our own creating, we all bow down in one way or another and declare something righteous. You may not know exactly what, or who your gods are, but it isn’t difficult to locate them. Take a look at your day to day choices and you might see a pattern emerge, one that points directly to what is truly important to you, to what and whom you give honor.
For me, I spend as much time as possible in denial. It’s only when I’m forced that I see beyond my immediate needs and decisions to the impact and ripples they create in my life and the lives of those closest to me. We all make choices and those choices have repercussions, not only for us, but for those in our world. We might want to pretend that our decisions only affect ourselves, but that’s rarely the truth.
I spent some time in Dallas last week. It’s a beautiful town, but a tad over-dressed and opulent for me. I am a hopelessly middle-class girl. I wasn’t born into wealth and quite frankly, I’m okay with that. In fact, at times, I even want to shun my middle class life. You see, I found out something a few years ago; middle-class is broken—it’s a lie. The truth is, it doesn’t even exist.
To begin with, the entire premise is misleading. By very definition, middle implies something midway–in the center of—located equally between two poles. But that’s the first problem, because we here in America think we hold both the poles. We don’t. There’s this whole big world out there beyond our borders and guess what? They matter. Although, by the way we live and breathe and perceive our existence you wouldn’t know it.
See, we are the Target generation. And as a so-called middle class girl, Target is like crack to me. No, really. I think I might actually salivate like Pavlov’s dog just thinking about it. My heart races, I get all kinds of weak. You know, there’s just so much to see, so much to buy! Their selection changes so rapidly and when they do clearance? Baby, they do clearance!
Target, is the Wal-mart of the middle class. Its everyday prices are like Anthropologies best sales. If you want to mimic Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, or Architectural Digest even—on a modest salary—Target can hook you up.
But, is that really middle class? And in the middle of what, exactly? Because if I can buy a swanky throw pillow for $24.99, and yet that same amount would feed a family of four in Kenya for a few months, I think middle is a bit off the mark…
So who shops at Target, and how close to the middle of anything are they really living? Is it those who make $50K a year—the U.S. median income? Because, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, per-capita incomes in the top 10 wealthiest populations are more than 50 times those in the 10 poorest populations. And yes, the U.S. is in the top ten wealthiest populations in the world, even if we refuse to acknowledge our place as such. While we pretend we are barely getting by, the rest of the world lives with a totally different perception, and reality. We look on, refusing to see both our wealth, and our power to live responsibly. (Pass me my Marc Jacobs bag so I can find my Visa card–there’s a sale on shoe’s at Nordstroms…)
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48
I’m not blaming anyone here. I’m blaming everyone, including myself. And to be honest, I never gave it a real thought until I went to Africa in the summer of 2012. That trip changed me. It wrecked me for normal life, forever. There’s just something about seeing a child scavenge in a mound of trash that changes your perception of wealth, of life…of everything. Now, I know I can never go back to the sweet Target salvation I used to know.
I can’t, because it doesn’t exist for me any longer.
See, what I realized in Africa is that I need less—not more—to feel content; less stuff, less power; less acclaim. My heart needs more of something else to come alive. Starbucks does not fix everything. A fancy house does not a home make. In fact, a home—home in the true sense—where your heart is free and open and bare before God—is readily accessible even with no house. Even in the bush, on the red dirt of Africa, you can find home, true home, in hearts and community with no walls or roof, because our home is with God, in God, in service and communion with his people.
So for me, there is no middle class. The American dream is dead. And if the bulls-eye we’re shooting for is pointed at acquiring more useless stuff to pad our already over cushioned lives, we need better aim. I need better aim.
Let’s see if we can find find it together, maybe over a Grande Americano…
What’s your poison? What keep’s you stuck in your safe, normal, American Dream? How can I help you get out of your box and see the real world? Share with me in the comments–let’s do community here!