Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All the World's a Sandbox

It seems more and more of my friends and acquaintances are feeling bummed these days.  Everyone seems to be hunkering down in self-protection against some unseen, ill-defined, menace.  I am hearing a lot of mumbling about a coming zombie apocalypse in the same breath of fiscal cliffs, lost freedoms, and declining incentives.  A friend recently told me to watch and see if there won't be a glut of people leaving their jobs because it's more lucrative to stay room and sponge off the government.

I found myself praying about all of this fear and pending doom, lamenting about how the world is getting worse.  But I' m not so sure about that.  A more accurate statement is probably America is catching up with the rest of the world.  Until recently, we've had it pretty darn good in this country--at least in my life time.  We've remained largely insulated from the horrors and insecurities common in other parts of the world.  What I have been sensing is not so much the world getting worse, but a slow collapse of the American firewall between me and the rest of the world.  I'm feeling the heat, man.

So what?

Well, first of all, don't feel bad about feeling bad.  We are human beings, not Vulcans (thank the Lord for that).  Secondly, know your limitations, which for all of us are dangerously close to being limitless. Thirdly, know that we are all playing in the same sandbox.  And regardless of whether we might own a truck or a tractor, a bucket and shovel, or nothing, we all deep down want only one thing: to be told by the person digging in the sand next to us that they are glad we are there with them.

Yes, some who perhaps possess more toys than you, or even own a part of the sandbox, might appear oblivious to such a basic need, but trust me, they aren't.  I'm telling you, everyone wants to be able to play in the sandbox and be recognized and appreciated for it--everyone.

The sandbox has perhaps grown a bit more crowded; there's less sand to go around, and the toys have become smaller, more expensive, and more scarce.  It seems like it's no fun to play anymore.  Well, such a perspective is bound to depress anyone, even enough to make them want to give up.  But the perspective is misguided.  The problem is we are focused on the toys and the sandbox instead on what matters the most.

I'm proposing whether we live on Long Island or in a cardboard box in some remote jungle, which is to say we either own a piece of the sandbox and some toys or we dream about them, our contentment will ultimately only rest on one thing: being welcomed as a participant in the play.  In short, we all simply want to love and be loved.  I don't give a rip who we might be or what we might control, none of it matters except to love and be loved.

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, you're such an idealist--such a hopeless romantic--such a naivete.

If we continue to view life from the perspective of the sandbox and toys within it, we will throw up our hands in despair.  Of course we will!  Because at the end of the day there isn't much any of us on an individual basis can do about the current status of the sandbox or its toys.  We might deny this, but deep down we all know it's true.  Consequently, some of us--perhaps most of us--give up, and the rest of us retaliate.  But these solutions only make matters worse for everybody.

Even though few of us can influence the sandbox or the toys, we can all most definitely affect everyone's basic human need.  On an individual by individual basis, regardless of our estate, disposition, health, or what have you, each of us has it in his or her individual prerogative to help another see his or her value.  All of us, regardless of the resources at hand, can exult another person.  All of us can love another human being.

What would happen if we all did what we all are capable of doing, instead of complaining about what is actually beyond our influence?

By the third century AD, the Roman Empire had become a very nasty place.  Infanticide and abortion were rampant.  Plagues were taking thousands of lives.  Money was so devalued, people resorted to bartering in order to survive.  Wars and violence escalated as people tried to capitalize on the growing destabilization of the empire.  The mighty Roman Dreadnought was listing and rapidly taking on water.

Sound familiar?

Yet in the midst of all that gloom and doom--yes, in spite of it--Christians, who were poor and persecuted, themselves--many to the point of painful death--sought to love their neighbor.  Within the maelstrom of carnage and fear, Christians trusted their true king, Jesus the Christ, and did what He requires, and many people came to see their lives changed.  The Empire around them went from rack to ruin, but many began to feel welcomed and honored again in the sandbox.  To be sure, it was a fleeting phenomenon--fleeting because before long even the church would shift its attention away from the Christ to the sandbox and the toys.

If Jesus is our Lord, Master, King, only turning away from Him will limit us from making a difference, not any other limitation.  Jesus equips us to love those in our home, our neighborhood, our jobs, our schools, or wherever we might be.  Each of us can make a difference in the lives of those next to us.  And if everyone were to love their neighbor, the sandbox would again become a wonderful place to play; there would be the sound of laughter instead of mourning--the fulfillment of dreams instead of bitter hopelessness.

The world will never be a utopia until Jesus returns to consummate His kingdom.  But we would all do better to attend to the matters within our control than to abdicate responsibility or continue to grab all we can for ourselves.  Jesus died on the cross that we might have the power to shine a light in the darkness.  Apprehend His power, and lead that person next to you back to the sandbox.