The American Dream

There has been much said of late about the “American Dream” and from what I can surmise there is more than one definition.  Some say its home ownership, especially for those who don’t own a home.  For others, it’s being able to start their own business, to work hard at it and enjoy the perceived benefits.  These folks are most likely those who are either working at a job they don’t particularly like, underemployed or even unemployed.  Still others define the American dream as simply being able to feed, and take care of their family, this is especially true for those who are poor or have experienced a debilitating tragedy such as an illness or even a divorce. There is another group that is unique because their situation has nothing to do with money or possessions.  They might be poor, wealthy or somewhere in between, but the dream they are pursuing is happiness and satisfaction in their life because at present there is none.

I’m sure there are other definitions of the American dream but what they all have in common is that their dream is about being somewhere else than where they currently find themselves. For some it has become an obsession because what was once just a desire for a better life has become an attitude of entitlement.  Still others simply look around at   what others have, and wish or dream that they could be them.  In chapters five and six of Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes a connection between these so-called dreams and what comes out of your mouth, “As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.” (5:3, 7)

If you are like me, sometimes when you lay your head down on the pillow at night, you just can’t seem to turn your brain off.  You know, those nights when the problems of the day just keep rolling and rolling around in your head.  If you do fall asleep it is a restless sleep and you keep looking at the clock, torn between wishing it was morning and hoping there are several hours before you have to get up.

So you have a problem and as far as you are concerned it is unlike any problem anyone has ever had, or at least that is how you feel.  Once again you are torn between wanting to talk about it and just hiding it away in the hope that tomorrow it won’t be there when you wake up.  You decide to talk to someone about it…and you talk and talk.  You receive commiseration and confirm that your plight is not your fault …it’s just so unfair.  When you are done talking and return home, has anything changed?  Will tonight be the night that you lay your head on the pillow and find real peace and rest?

What all of us really want is to be content and satisfied, but we live in a world that is constantly trying to redefine for us what contentment is and how it can be attained.  The world wants us to be in this state of perpetual need so that it might profit from satisfying that need. It isn’t just about money and stuff, in fact it is more often about relationships, a husband to a wife…a parent to a child…or simply between friends. We say to ourselves or to a listening ear, my spouse is too this or that, they need more from me than I am willing and able to give, or perhaps what they are giving is not what I want.

If any of this sounds familiar to some degree or another, then you will want to consider what James, the brother of Jesus has to say on the subject in the fourth chapter of his letter to the church, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Come near to God and he will come near to you. (vs.7, 8)” In book after book, sermon after sermon, the emphasis is on the husband loving his wife and the wife respecting her husband.  Also, that mutual submission is a requirement in the marital relationship.  All this is true, but it is not the panacea for what ails most marriages that are in crisis, it is that one or both in the relationship has not yet submitted themselves first to God.  That is where we will pick it up tomorrow.

Tool # 260  “He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  There above it stood the Lord (Genesis 28:12).”  What’s your dream?

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