The other day I overheard some men working on a house talking. I didn’t hear much of it, but there was one line I heard very clearly.
“Surrounded by beautiful women all day. Now THAT would be the life.”
THE life. It would be THE LIFE. The pinnacle of all existences would be to have a subjective measure of beauty assigned to a gender and then you get to have these individuals in your general presence for 12ish hours a day (he didn’t say all night).
While I heard some authority in his voice when he spoke, I’m not sold.
Now, to take this man’s sexist and objectifying words literally would be a mistake, right? He was just making an off-hand remark. It was a joke. Nothing to be taken too seriously.
But isn’t this how the worst lies we’ve created as a culture stay in circulation? We make comments here and there about what a great life would be and we don’t examine them or dispute them because they aren’t meant to be taken seriously.
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for 1 million dollars.”
“When I win the lottery I’m just going to sit back and let everyone else work for me.”
“Have you seen her? She’s way out of his league.”
“I need a caramel frappucinno.”
None of this would really be a problem if we didn’t structure our lives and time around the pursuit of these lies. Our schedules and mental energy can be built around being in relationship with the right kind of people, making the right amounts of money and holding the right kinds of positions. We go to sleep under the blanket of these expectations that are kept alive by jokes and little comments.
So, what happens when these expectations build up from individuals to whole societies? What happens when we build a world of lies about what we exist for and what the best life looks like? Things can get really dark in violent and overwhelming ways and we can see a bunch of beautiful and culturally successful people gripped by anxiety and depression.
Sometimes the voices of people from 3,000 years ago can be the most relevant voices we hear today. The book of Isaiah is built around this idea that people have moved so far away from the kind of life that God created us for that we need to correct the course that we’re on. The book of Isaiah isn’t calling out people for having too much fun or not being religious enough. It’s about addressing the lies that have so gripped people that we chase the parts of life that have proven time and time again to create bondage and suffering. God’s created us for something so much greater than we claim in our jokes and off-handed remarks. How do we hear that call again, repent and seek after what God created us for?
This is the power of the Bible. There’s a greater authority when we hear deeply relevant messages for our idea echo through history. It means that the cycles we’re caught in are even more powerful than we previously imagined. It’s not a hopeless journey, but one that also includes the invitation to break these patterns.