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There’s that Smell Again!

06 Mar

…And it’s not a pleasant one. Why, I do believe it’s the spirit of this age reeking again.

Allow me to share my story.

A few days ago, I took a vacation day to recover from my crazy-packed-schedule-admin-ness. I hadn’t had a day off in about a month, and it seemed like time to take one. So I found myself with a free day, an untouched gift card from Christmas, and a friend’s wedding coming up this weekend. Seemed like a perfect time to invest in a new dress.

I went to a local shopping mall. This is not a big entertainment super-plex of a place. It’s got your standard anchor stores, a pretty dinky food court, and assorted random clothing / shoe / bric-a-brac stores. I found a great dress at the first store I went to, but I still had the evening free, so I decided to wander around.

It’s a good thing I did, too. I had been planning for a few days to encourage a coworker of mine and contribute towards a financial need they have. I wanted to get a card for them, but I had yet to find one that was simply pretty on the outside and blank on the inside. Fortunately, this mall had a Hallmark store, and there I found a card that fit the bill.

Having gotten what I came for — a dress and a card — I took my time wandering. I didn’t want to buy anything else. I wasn’t checking out any sales. I wasn’t really even window shopping. I was just enjoying being out of the house and really enjoying not rushing to another looming appointment.

However, when I was at the far end of the mall, I began to notice something strange. That money I was planning on giving away? You know, the gift I bought the card for in the first place? I was not wanting to give it away any more. I could feel myself trying to talk myself out of the amount. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I was being foolish with my funds (I live on missionary support, after all). Maybe I should reconsider…

As soon as I recognized what I was thinking, my next thought was, Good gravy. Get me out of here!

I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about shopping malls. There’s nothing bad about shopping. But I was definitely experiencing something bizarre. I think I was picking up a weird mixture of the credit card hyper-consumer culture (I deserve nice things and I deserve them right now), mixed with the poverty mentality of “everyone panic, we’re in a recession” (What will become of me if I can’t continue to buy all of these nice things that I deserve?)

Welcome to Babylon, folks. This is not the fullness of what we see coming in Revelation 17-18, but I think it’s a definite foretaste of it. This is the same kind of spirit that Daniel faced off with when he was first deported to Babylon as a teenager.

When Nebuchadnezzar took those Hebrew boys captive to Babylon, he didn’t lock them in small, dark rooms, deprive them of basic necessities, and try to torture and brainwash them into the Babylonian way. He was far too cunning for that. Instead, he lured them in with luxuries and comforts. He didn’t just see that they were well-fed — he appointed them portions from his very own table, the finest cuisine to be had in all the land. We only have record of four boys who had the presence of mind and alertness of heart to refuse the luxurious food, and instead opt for a simple diet of vegetables.

Nice food was not itself the issue. But that nice food had a lot of strings attached to it, and Daniel and his three friends were wise enough to spot them. Stomachs that are filled with the abundance and the luxury of a culture produce hearts that are dull to the wickedness and pitfalls of that culture. Overindulged appetites lead to anemic spirits. The more our flesh is pandered to, the less we hear the warnings of the Holy Spirit. Which brings us right back around to our day and time.

Our culture thrives on — perhaps even worships — comfort, luxury, and leisure. Even as believers, we are extremely prone to get sucked into the undertow. You can’t walk out your front door without some ad, somewhere, informing you of how much better your life could be. “Buy it now!” “Consume this!” “Treat yourself to that!” “You deserve it!” It’s the abundance of Babylon trying to sink its hooks into the people of God, winning over our hearts one luxury at a time. Under the banner of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are exhorted to use our own resources to further our own comfort and honor. To dig up the old cliche, “Get what you can and can what you get.” It’s the direct opposite of how Jesus tells us to live, and as such, is a powerfully dulling influence upon our hearts.

As our nation panics because our dream home/car/vacation may suddenly be out of reach, this is not the time to follow suit. It’s time to seize the opportunity to detach ourselves from the allure of Babylon with all its wealth and so-called pleasures. Let’s give extravagantly. Let’s fast and pray. Let’s embrace the road of weakness and humility, living transcendently. Obviously, I still have a long way to go, but I want the delicacies of this age to have no hold on my soul. I’d much prefer to have vibrant love for the holy God (who is the most beautiful, pleasurable Person to pursue anyway), an excellent spirit, and a heart of wisdom. The rich fare of Babylon can’t hold a candle to that.

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5 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2009 in Life Happens...

 

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5 responses to “There’s that Smell Again!

  1. Kacie

    March 6, 2009 at 10:24 am

    thomas dubay would be quite pleased to hear this post. : )

    i like what you said about consumer culture. the whole issue of entitlement has been hugely highlighted to me in the past couple of months, even and especially during these times where the general worldly economy is so restricted. it fascinates me how our culture has inundated our thinking from birth to believe that we deserve things. i remember when misty’s lyric popped onto the scene: “you owe me nothing, i deserve hell”; for some people, the offense came from the use of hell (oh goodness!), but for me, i instantly found myself offended at the reality that God owed me absolutely nothing, and what i deserved was a far cry from what i had thought. when i came to terms with that reality, one whose opposite was somehow strangely and silently bred into me (“i ask God for things and he does them because i do things for him; i made a good choice so i deserve heaven and all the perks of this godly life”), it radically changed my prayer life (more like “you really don’t owe me a thing, and i ought to fear you a good deal because you’re worthy; perhaps, considering my position as a man on the earth destined for hell without the extravagant love that you poured out through your son, i should be more thankful for your mercy and stop taking for granted my salvation”).

    i don’t want to be dull. my very smart husband caught me cleanly off guard at a meal last sunday by pushing his plate away and ceasing to feast. we were at a buffet, so for any guy his size and age, it seemed a bit strange to me. when i looked at him, shocked at such a gesture, he said “i’m done. i don’t want to keep eating just because i can. i feel dull when i overeat.” talk about your fun marriage moments where you remember that God gave you a gift in your spouse that will continually offend you so that it brings about the good… in my little southern girl thinking, i made it as far as “woohoo! buffet! i’m gonna eat ’til you have to roll me out the door!” and dove right into my gluttony. it hadn’t occurred to me to practice restraint in my eating at a buffet; i’d never given it a moment’s thought in light of discipline and holiness. needless to say, he got me thinking…

    anyhoo, great post. you are one smart cookie, miss amanda b. i am thankful for you.

     
  2. brianbeattie

    March 7, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I’ve felt some of the intense spiritual battle you described, but never really tried to put it in words. I’m glad you did.

    The loose end is flashing neon, though – you have to tell us now.
    What did you decide about the gift you mentioned?
    Enquiring minds want to know!

     
  3. christiankane

    March 8, 2009 at 1:57 am

    I would love to believe that God wouldn’t hold against us an “Atmosphere/Osmosis” type sin… but I just don’t see that in the Bible… However, most of the church either doesn’t believe that America has moved beyond them, or they have forgotten that every last dollar in their wallet actually belongs to God. It’s times like that that I become incredibly glad that God likes us even in our weaknesses.

    It seems so easy to let ourselves slip “just this once”, but how do you plan to stop an avalanche?

    Plus, we consider that many people have spent much of their fortunes figuring out how best to stroke the human ego so that it will not miss the Benjamins slipping from its bill fold. With one hand on your back and the other in your pocket, advertisers thrive on creating a perception for you where everything will be alright after you acquire their product. It wouldn’t sell water to a sheik, but if we were honest, advertisement boils down to, “Come to us and purchase our treasures! You won’t feel that hunger anymore and you will finally be satisfied!” Basically, advertising is the Gospel of the product it is pushing. But that gospel is mere empty promise, begging you to put faith in a broken cistern that looks beautiful on the front, and is leaking like a sieve in the back… and then we complain that we have no money and we are still hungry…

     
  4. xristosdomini

    March 8, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Yeah…… I remember having a similar experience at work last year. I wrote a post about it, so I will give the short version. I’m at work cleaning a shelf and I hear the demo for the BluRay stuff playing over my shoulder. In the space of about 10 minutes I heard some derivation of “Buy it today…” some 18 times. Needless to say, I was ticked by the time I got that shelf cleaned.

    No, I don’t want to buy it, I don’t need it, and I certainly don’t want to give you $40 for a movie that sells for $15 on DVD! I’m weird like that, I guess…

     

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