Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lost Boys. . . Some Much-Needed Perspective On All Our Stuff. . .

Yesterday I chatted with a good college friend about life. . . . specifically, the in-between time that began when we graduated and ended yesterday. Lot's has happened for both of us and God has blessed us both so deeply in so many ways. First and foremost, we have both been claimed, embraced, and adopted by God as His.

But there were some reflections we shared about stuff that doesn't matter. I'm convinced that for those of us living here in America, perspective is brought through a) the passing of time, and b) the experiences of those who don't have what we have. And, when you take the time to ponder it all in light of the truth's of God's Word, perspective begins to make itself clear. In my conversation with my friend, we agreed that with every addition material thing we accumulate, there comes responsibilities and headaches that make life more complex, cause us to waste our money, and lead us to spend our time doing things that don't matter. For example, when I graduated from college I had to get my first car. I was excited about that. Back then, I couldn't even imagine having more than one car. Now, we own two cars. . . which means two-times the expenses, bills, breakdowns, upkeep, etc.

After our conversation, I went back and watched a 60 Minutes piece I had seen just the night before. On Sunday night, the show revisited their original story on the Lost Boys of the Sudan. . . a kind of "where are they now?" show. The report offered that "experiences of those who don't have what we have" kind of perspective I just mentioned. Give it a look. . . and pay special attention to what is shared around the 6 minute mark of the clip. The young man's words remind me of what really matters. Watch too, to learn of the Lost Boys' response to 9/11.

Because we live unknowingly with so very much, we have no idea just how much the "how much" we have has gripped us. Yesterday's conversation and the story on the Lost Boys should cause us to ponder whether or not the grip is a death grip. The danger is very real that we are gripped by materialism and we don't even know it. Websters defines materialism as "the doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being," and "a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things."
The Lost Boys of the Sudan

Several years ago, Dr. Bruce Baldwin did extensive research on the effects of giving and allowing our kids to have an overabundance of money and things. Out of his research evolved the concept of "Cornucopia Kids." They are children who have been raised in good homes with interested, involved, and well-intentioned parents. However, their parents have given them so much that it is difficult for them to develop into healthy self-sufficient adults. Baldwin defined a Cornucopia Kid as "a child who develops an expectation, based on years of experience in the home, that the good life will always be available for the asking and without the need to develop personal accountability or achievement motivation." In short, Baldwin saw the life defined as "success in excess" as one of the root causes of many of the problems we see in youth culture today. . . things like selfishness, materialism, narcissism, and entitlement.

As I've watched youth culture evolve over the years, I'm increasingly convinced that our kids have too much (from us), are given too much (by us), and expect too much (like us). They're not much different than we are as adults. With that in mind, I've done a lot of thinking about the kind of example and message I need to be sending to my kids. I believe there are two crucial elements that must be present in our teaching and example if we are going to begin to undo the effects of materialism.

First, we must realize that our job as parents of teens is to help our children redefine their idea of success by equipping them to understand and live out God,s definition of success. Of course, this requires that we understand and live out God's definition ourselves. Unfortunately, God never chose to include a clear one-sentence definition of "success" in his word. But even though we can't point our kids to a specific chapter and verse where God says, "Success is. . . ," the entire Bible, from cover to cover, defines "success" as faithful devotion to God and obedience to his commands. That's quite different from the definition fed to us by the unwritten dictionary of contemporary American culture.

And second, we must realize that we're buying into a lie if we set our hearts and efforts on providing our kids with what has been labeled "the good life." That's a dangerous road to take. The good news is that there's a better road to travel on our parenting journey. It's the road to "the best life." Our lives and actions should communicate to our kids that the best life is found in living by God's values and according to His standards of success. The best life consists of directing all that we have, do and are towards loving God. And, because of our love Him, we should love those around us rather than treating them as competition or means to material ends. John Wesley had these priorities in mind when he gave this timely and timeless advice: "Work as hard as you can, to make all the money you can, to save as much as you can in order to give away all that you can."

A big "thank-you" to the Lost Boys for setting us straight.

1 comment:

Adam J said...

Thanks Walt, for continuing to awaken my heart as a father of sons, and a minster to youth in this american culture of excess and discontent.