I had a professor in college who summarized a distinctive of America’s mindset by saying, “Europeans have all the time in the world and no land. Americans have all the land in the world and no time.” He waxed eloquent on the topic, suggesting Europeans had to care for the small plots of land their ancestors left them while Americans were always able to “go someplace new and start over.” Whether it was homesteading or following pioneers into unsettled lands, we always had wilderness frontiers where we could go to begin again. We had to destroy millions of native peoples and their cultures to do it, but we always figured we had the option of going wherever we wanted to go.
Those days are coming to an end.
On Fat Tuesday, a day that’s become synonymous with self-indulgence and inebriated excess, we’d do well to remember the days of imagining unlimited options are coming to an end.
How much longer will it be before we have nowhere to go?
How much longer before we discover we need to fix the marriage we have, instead of moving on to the next one? How many times can we bail on the marriages we’ve ruined before we run out of options? Do you really believe there’s an unlimited supply of wonderful people standing in line to be your next spouse? Eventually you’ll either fix the marriage you have, or you’ll have none. You’ll have nowhere to go.
How much longer until we stop spending out of control? When do we pay what we owe instead of trashing our financial future with more and more debt? Who can possibly believe someone will bail us out and pay our debts forever? To whom will you go for another bailout when you’re short-list is exhausted? Eventually no one will extend us credit and when that happens, irresponsible spending comes to an end. The only option left will be to fix the financial mess we’ve made. There will be no place to go.
When will we realize there’s no place to run from our self-indulgent lifestyles? We’ve made our bodies soft and weak. Can you ruin your body and move to a new one? Maybe you can get a new knee; maybe not, but the sooner we face the fact we’re only going to get a new body when Jesus establishes a new heaven and a new earth, the sooner we’ll stop mistreating the body we have. Wake up. You ruin the body you’re in and you’ll have no place (in this world) to go.
There are only a few hundred congregations within driving distance of your home. Move to a new congregation every week, looking for a local church that’s good enough for such a person as yourself, and you’ll quickly exhaust your options. Wherever you go, there you are, so where can you go? Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” He recognized going somewhere else couldn’t guarantee fulfillment; going to Jesus and adjusting his plans to follow HIM would.
We’re running out of self-serving escape options. As millions of Americans go crazy with gluttony and self-indulgent intoxicated intemperance the day before Lent, we face a sobering end to our fantasy of endless alternatives.
The unavoidable consequence to violating marriage vows is the end of marriage. The inescapable upshot of ignoring your children is losing them. Neglect your body (or over indulge it) and you’ll ruin it. The undeniable burden of ever increasing debt is the end of freedom. Rejecting the WAY that leads to life means life ends.
When there is no place else to go, we’ll have only one good option left. We’ll have to leave our old ways, turn to Jesus and adjust our lives to HIS will. Following Jesus is the WAY.
What we should have done in the beginning is our last best hope in the end.
Romans 14:11-12 - Read it for yourself in Scripture: "As I live and breathe," God says, "Every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God." So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.