D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

The Baby Boomer's Inadequate Gift to Us: Guest Post by Shawn Smucker

You can read my intro/interview with Shawn from Tuesday here

 

 

 

The Baby Boomers’ Inadequate Gift to Us--guest post by Shawn Smucker

 

 

 

“We expected something,

Something better than before.

We expected something more.”

 

The National

 

* * * * *

 

We watched the sun set, all of us sitting there by the fire pit but it was warm so we didn’t light the fire. Deer wandered through the waist-high grass at the edge of the woods, and as darkness seeped up from the shadows and spread towards the sky, the lightning bugs began to blink.

 

My daughter, five years old and full of optimism, ran inside for a jar, then dashed back and forth through the night. She saw a light and ran towards it, but by the time she arrived, it was dark. Another light, another mad dash. Another light, another flurry of activity.

 

Darkness and empty jars.

 

* * * * *

 

“The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.”

 

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

 

* * * * *

 

One can easily spend a lifetime chasing these fading dreams. I see it now all around me, as successful baby boomers stand in their quiet four-bedroom houses, their children gone, their retirements secure or completely lost, their businesses booming or folding. I see them as they look around, emptiness in their eyes and golf clubs in their hands.

 

They move some money around and spend some of the principal on a house where they can get away while all around them the world is crumbling. The poor are getting poorer and there are more slaves than at any point in the history of this planet. But they made a large contribution to their church’s building fund so they sit quietly in their seats on Sunday mornings and manage to bear the service by thinking of the fun they’ll have on their upcoming family vacation.

 

They bought into the lie that happiness awaits if you plan a responsible life, work hard, save and make your decisions based on financial data points. This formula will usher you to the grand old age of 65 where you will find happiness, wealth and the opportunity to pass this life strategy down to the next generation.

 

But so much of it is darkness and empty jars. Our generation has watched the generation before us arrive at retirement with good credit scores, a nice house, and a growing sense that they somehow missed out on a life worth living.

 

* * * * *

 

“… hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone but will fulfill the deepest desires of our heart...”

 

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

 

* * * * *

 

At the root of our culture’s chronic unhappiness is an inability, or sometimes flat-out refusal, to live in The Now.  We dull our not inconsequential pain with hours of television, prescription or recreational drugs and staying very, very busy. We use every tool at our disposal to distract us from today, to numb the pain we feel, and to take the focus off of our unhappy lives.

 

We work hard to avoid The Now because it is a difficult place to exist. It requires intentionality. It requires things like forgiveness – otherwise the past will not remove its claws. It requires a tenacious hope – otherwise the specter of an unknown future paralyzes us.

 

Enter Materialism, the great idol of our time. Materialism gives us something to look forward to: the next big acquisition, the next big purchase, the next notch in our social standing. Materialism offers the great escape from this present moment of boredom or unhappiness. And because we sacrifice our time at the foot of its golden altar, we hold tightly to the “gifts” it gives us in return.

 

Each present second ticks by, quickly becoming a past we’d rather forget.

 

* * * * *

 

My whole life I have been surrounded by well-meaning encouragement to go 'higher up,' and the most-used argument was : 'You can do so much good there, for so many people.' But these voices calling me to upward mobility are completely absent from the Gospel.

 

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

 

* * * * *

 

To me, the essence of Downward Mobility is best characterized by living in the present moment. Living in The Now. When I live a life of Downward Mobility I become so deeply entrenched in today and in what Christ is calling me to do, now, that the future and past no longer control me.

 

Living in the The Now allows me to enjoy what I have without always striving for what I want to get tomorrow or next month or next year. My obsession with material things evaporates when I begin to explore how I can contribute to the Kingdom of Heaven today, with what I have now.

 

In a word, Downward Mobility is abiding.

 

* * * * *

 

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

* * * * *

 

Shawn is the author of "Building a Life Out of Words," the story of how he lost his business, his house and his community, then found happiness making a living as a writer. He lives deep in the woods of southern Lancaster County, PA, with his wife and four children. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

For more information on the Downward Mobility series, click here. For all posts, click here

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