Growing Pains

I have recently been taken in by all of the crude discourse and wrangling in Washington and throughout the country of late. Many decry all the 'hateful rhetoric' .... until they have something to 'spew' ... uh...say.

How did we get here? I've been thinking of an experience I had years ago. Funny that now in mid-life yesterday can seem fuzzy...but certain things from the past become crystal clear.

When my husband and I were first married, we were helping some friends move into their new place--a small house they would be renting from a doctor who owned the property. They had several friends and the parents of our friend's wife who we hardly knew at the time helping with the move. Shelly (not her real name) was telling us that the only space they could not use was some attic space that the doctor and his family used for storage. When she mentioned that, her mother headed upstairs to check things out. During the process of moving, I visited with this woman and discovered that she did house cleaning for several people including several doctor's families. There was no connection to this particular landlord to the people she worked for.

As Shelly's Mom and Dad started to leave, Shelly noticed her Mother had a fur coat over her arm. When she asked her why, dear old Mom commented over her shoulder as she walked out the door '...those sons-of-(expletive) owe me this!"

To tell you I was stunned is an understatement. Even at the ripe old age of 20, this was extremely offensive to me. I asked Shelly if she didn't think this was stealing...she responded that she would not take her mother on in this and laughed as if it were no big deal. I wrestled with this for some time wondering how people could possibly feel such a strong sense of 'deserving' what other people had.

Now, I grew up in a middle-class home. We didn't have vacations every year, private school was not an option and we didn't have everything our hearts desired, and finances were always tight for them......but, honestly, I never felt anything was missing. My parents were bedrock Catholic Christians who taught us if we did not have our dignity, we really had nothing...no matter what the checkbook said.

Needless to say, our relationship with these people didn't last. We were, it turns out, from two different worlds. Their marriage did not last and life has been a real struggle for both. I felt pity for them and grateful that their attitudes were the minority back in 1977.

Fast forward to 2011. My how things have changed. Do you know anyone who does not have a sense of entitlement? For years our media, advertisers, unions and government have bombarded us with messages that we are not being treated fairly and we deserve more. I must admit that I fight the urge to spend money on something I really want but don't need constantly-- reasoning that I deserve this thing or that.

In the past 40 years, our nation has become one of takers. What was before a common thread for many of those in the low-income sector of our population but not the population-at-large has become mainstream. Suddenly everything from Viagra to a house has become our 'right'. Of late, we have even discovered a 'right' not to be offended. Still perusing my pocket copy of the Constitution for that one!

It is creepy. We are living among a population of 2-year-old's that have a collective tantrum every time they think someone has more. This is not earth-shattering news. I can see you shaking your head in agreement now. The more important lesson is how we ended up here.

No doubt politicians who convince you that you deserve everything and that they will make it their sole purpose to get it for you have fared better than those who talk about taking responsibility for your choices in life and then invite us to join them in the effort to restore these time-honored values to our desperately needy society. No surprise. And we are just beginning to feel the pain of providing so much with no thought of how it will be paid.

The hard truth in this is that our Church, preaching 'social justice for all' have only made it worse. While governments come and go (albeit, I believe, by the hand of God), the Church has been given a mandate not to fall prey to this thinking. The Ten Commandments spell this out clearly. The Scriptures are replete with warnings about being in the world but not of the world. I believe we thought we could have both.

We cannot. Slowly, painfully we are coming to a full realization that for a rational, thinking nation, this must change. The church must find the courage to be a beacon once again. We must address the attitudes that have led to the bondage sin has brought us. I believe if we are to restore some sanity to America's fiscal house, the church can and should pick up the slack. Not by mimicking the government's social programs but by following the greatest 'social program' of all--ministering to broken hearts and souls who are trying to medicate their sorry state by using things and people for their own pleasure. Christ brought us a joy that cannot be replaced by something worldly. We feel that in the simplest things: a child's laughter, a beautiful sunrise and a sense of peace within at the end of the day.

Each of us need to remember what that looks like in our own lives and then reach out to those who are around us and witnessing that joy. Now more than ever our nation needs to see this in action.

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