“Backward and not forward.” I read these words today in Jeremiah 7 and they stopped me in my tracks. They were words of chastisement for the people of Israel, people who had not followed God but had “followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.” (vs. 24) By “doing their own thing”, they moved backward spiritually and every other way too, as a result.
While sitting here at the keyboard, I overheard Rich (my husband) and Emily (our sixteen year old daughter) discussing the latest economic woes and the similarities thereof to the American Great Depression (of the 1930’s). Seems you could say our country has been moving backward by doing our own thing for quite some time and finally the consequences are hitting. People are losing jobs, companies are going out of business, colleges are rethinking financial aid (we got a letter in the mail today from Charlie’s college…), everyone is hoping for a government bailout and only a few are spending unnecessary nickels. We’re maxed out financially and are adjusting our spending accordingly. We’re battening down the hatches and hoping to weather the storm without much damage.
Dare I posit a conjecture? Have we done this to ourselves? Well…of course we’ve done it to ourselves, what I mean is have we deliberately done this (albeit unconsciously) to ourselves? Why would we do this? What kind of crazy talk is this? What are the actual benefits of such difficult times? Well, just maybe we’ll get on our knees and seek God. Just maybe we’ll cut out all the spendy activity we devote ourselves to and rediscover the life-giving perks of hearth and kin. Just maybe we’ll learn to be grateful for what we have and care less for what we don’t have. Just maybe we’ll begin to gather just to be with one another, without having to do anything. Just maybe we’ll turn off the media, computer and gadgets and listen to the silence. Just maybe we’ll smile at the old beat up car in the driveway instead of devising a way to get a new one. Just maybe we’ll slow down long enough to see our neighbors–yeah, the people who live next door, who occupy the same space we do. Just maybe we’ll stop and pray when a need is made known. Just maybe we’ll discover a deep spiritual hunger that has been buried alive by busy-ness, business and noise. Just maybe we’ll make seeing our child’s first step a priority and find the joy in sweet bedtime stories and “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. Just maybe we’ll discover a career that feeds our hearts and fulfills God’s plan for us. Just maybe we’ll sing songs together. Just maybe we’ll reflect on living with integrity. Just maybe we’ll say “hello” even when we don’t know each other. Just maybe we’ll visit a shut in, share a meal with a homeless person or write an old fashioned letter to someone.
Could this economic wall we’re facing be a blessing? Could this “stop, pause and reflect on how to venture into tomorrow” time help us reorient? Could it help us to actually move forward–move toward God?
Some are fighting hard and long to keep the backward track moving–of course it is noble to want to help people keep their jobs, their homes, their lifestyles, but if these things are keeping us from knowing God, from knowing ourselves and each other, and from knowing God’s plan for us, then the fighters are enablers. If bailed out without a repentant heart, then we’ll never learn to take responsibility for our own decisions, we’ll never learn to expect dire consequences for poor choices, and we’ll never realize we’re responsible for our life before God. Instead, we’ll collectively don our battle gear, stand at attention and yell, “Backward Ho!” and off we’ll march with our backs to the Son.