It usually happened when I was on Facebook and I saw all sorts of activities that my friends are involved in that I am not. They make their own butter/toothpaste/clothes/furniture, grow their own vegetables, hunt, fish, and build barns. Some of them make homemade soap, wash their clothes by hand, and dry them on lines. And I would look at their photos and how happy they are in them and think, “Man, am I even a good dad? My kids do not know how to raise chickens!”
Ironically, as we move closer to living in Africa I am realizing that many of these activities are taking over my life. Here in France we do not have a car so we walk everywhere. We have a small washing machine and no dryer, so we have to either try to get all of our laundry hung up on our porch or walk down the stairs (we live on the 4th floor) and hang it up outside. Further, when we move to Cameroon our solar-powered life will just be less convenient. We will be living in a small village and have to buy our food at a local market and then carry it home. Cleaning is more frequent and takes longer when you live in a house with screens for windows. And (as I just learned from the status update of a fellow missionary family) we will probably use our oven to dry clothes during the rainy season. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with how much time it takes to “just live” and I ask myself how we are going to have time to translate the Bible!
As I am considering all of this I have been growing in my thankfulness for convenience. I did not really think about it when I had it, but driving a car is a whole lot faster than prodding 4 young children every morning to go to school. Tossing a load of laundry in the dryer is quite a bit quicker than hanging it up. And in America we have a LOT of conveniences. Which means we are able to do in 10 minutes something that some people spend hours doing in other places. There are many people all around the world that spend every part of their day just doing what is necessary to live.
And my guilt has been vanishing. I have realized that while I can and should glorify God in the day-to-day-living aspect of my life (washing dishes and walking to school), conveniences offer me a type of freedom. Conveniences minimize the “have-tos” and maximize the “can-dos.” And it frees us from the tyranny of spending life serving only self and family. It is a freedom to serve others. Paul reminds us, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). I believe that the convenience available to the modern American gives us unprecedented ability to obey this verse. Jesus said,
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” John 6:27.
I saw a statistic on Twitter that said that there are only 17 people in the world that were born before 1900. There have been thousands of years of human history and every single person that has ever been born has died, or will die. Our bodies and the food that we put in them are temporary, like vapors. If I can draw three applications from what I have been learning they are:
1. Necessity or Hobby?