Today I’ve been thinking about how people tend to get overly attached to their plans and their way of life. We’re creatures of habit, we humans, and Americans more than most. Many times we are upset when we experience changes we did not overtly and directly initiate, regardless of whether those changes are truly harmful to us. We as human beings are very susceptible to falling into a routine and becoming used to whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.
This can manifest itself in a number of ways, ranging from harmless to devastating. For instance, I just got a new computer, and using Windows 7 instead of XP Professional is a little weird for me (however, it is a huge improvement in all areas). On the bad side, though, sometimes we can fall into habits that are downright unhealthy for us, and when it comes time to let those habits go, we balk. Make no mistake: we get addicted to routine as surely as we get addicted to drugs.
As Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” That’s true in a lot of cases. I personally detest religion. I am a born-again Christian, sworn body and soul to the Son of the Light, but I believe in a brotherhood of the saints, each individual acting according to the will of the Holy Spirit within him. Religion for religion’s sake is a detestable thing. Moving on, however, I’d like to say that religion is dwindling as the masses’ opiate. Most people, at least in America, are abandoning religion in favor of entertainment.
Now, I want to clarify something here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either religion or entertainment, nor with most of the other things that are “opiates of the masses.” What is wrong is that they tend to become what we live for.
Think about it. In your deepest hour of spiritual completeness, or if you’re not a spiritual person, in your highest moment of purpose, of knowing what direction you want life to take, you have this conviction that this, this is what you’re supposed to be doing. Now what’s your opiate? Whatever you do instead. How many people do you know who live day to day for that next sports game? For the day that Deathwing finally drops that piece of epic loot for you on World of Warcraft? For the next potluck dinner at church? The next get-together with friends? The next time they can see their spouse or loved one?
I intentionally chose inherently harmless or even intrinsically valuable things here because they, too, can get in our way. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sports, or video games, or time with family or community events. What is wrong is when they get in our way, and so often they do. Our culture is all about enjoyment. If you enjoy it, why not do it as often as you want? So many people live their lives to get to the point where they don’t have to do anything else, where they can focus on doing things that please them. Many people wouldn’t admit it aloud, but their main goal in life is simply to do that one thing that they enjoy, as often as possible.
Naturally there will be protestations to this uncomfortable truth. “But that’s just what I do with my free time! That’s not where I’m really going!” Sure, there’s nothing wrong with unwinding with your free time. But where are your eyes set? What are you constantly thinking about? Yeah, from time to time you might get a glimpse of that higher purpose and say “Wow, that’d be really great if I could get there.” But how often do you work toward it? How often do you meditate upon it? How often do you pray or talk about it?
There’s a reason Paul said to keep your eyes on Christ. If you keep your eyes on Him, your thoughts will dwell on Him and everything you do will be done with Him in mind.
Even good and noble things can distract us, even praiseworthy activities can become idols to false gods when we focus upon them to the exclusion of what’s really important. It’s far too easy to do that, I think, especially when today’s culture is overtly encouraging us to do just that.
Just remember… What are you focused on? Where do your eyes rest? Where does your mind keep coming back to, time after time, when you find that quiet time when it’s not working on anything? A more telling question: Do you avoid that time, or do you embrace it? The conscience speaks in a bare whisper. If you’re not listening for it, it’s easy to drown it out, but times of silence and stillness can still give it voice. Perhaps we’re so engrossed in these activities because they help us to pretend that it’s not there, speaking to us, telling us that this isn’t what we were made for?
Now, if you will excuse me, it’s been far too long since I’ve sat down to do some writing.