When Reality and Expectation Collide

by Bob Allen:

Why is “keeping up with the Joneses” a thing, when we all know that keeping up with the Joneses is a thing and that it shouldn’t be a thing?

It’s tongue in cheek, for sure, but it’s no less true.

Our world revolves around a constant thrum of information, images, and distractions bent upon trying to steer our minds and therefore our wallets to some “better” version of life. We have supercomputers in our pockets which can link with other supercomputers in other nations around the globe. Just waiting to be accessed, the insidious little monsters pull us away from the people and places directly in front of us to information about those people and places. We readily trade the real for the virtual every time we reach into our pockets and draw forth these technological wonders.

Some escape from their current circumstances looking toward the life they desire by trying on what other people do to escape their circumstances. For many the lure of self-expression through social media and the desire to be “known” trumps real intimacy with people. Others want to display the blessing of their family, their jobs, their talents, or their knowledge.

At the heart, each, while pursuing it differently, craves to be known, desires to feel important, longs to be someone or somewhere else…

…because this world does not compare with the next.

Life in our current moment, in our current culture, in our current society, in our current circumstances will never measure up to the life that is available to all who choose Jesus. We compare this stage with a perfection we cannot attain; no matter how intentional our efforts not to do so, comparison rules our psyche.

Our momentary strifes, our temporal afflictions, our ephemeral crises point us to a dissatisfaction with the status quo, with the normalcy and banality of existence. We hunger for a world set right and we turn here, there, and everywhere to try and see it realized. We set our hopes on politics or reform or paychecks or families or celebrity or whatever earthly thing brings us a sense of accomplishment. But deep down, we know that none of these things will ultimately work because we know deep down there is something wrong with the world as we know it.

Hence the comparison.

And I think it’s ok.

Rather than setting aside the comparison, denying it, rejecting it, let us embrace it.

Let us recognize that things here on earth will never be perfect until the One sent to restore creation returns to claim his throne. Let us remember that what is missing here and now; justice, righteousness, and peace, will not be lacking there and then. Let us run toward what we know is lacking rather than trying to fill that gap with other things. Let us meditate on the future hope we have on Christ rather than trying to merely survive the time until he returns. It is how the believer lives out their faith.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

Not only should we focus on the comparison, but in our lives we should point others to seek answers for why they too desire to “keep up with the Joneses”, why those around us cannot help but examine their life against some standard they can’t quantify or qualify. The world needs to see Christians thriving in their faith, entrusting themselves joyfully to the will and plans and sovereignty of God particularly in the midst of difficult circumstances. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) We testify to the goodness of God when we surrender not only our future, but our present, to his hands, ceding control of our day to day lives. For in this way, we prove our God is faithful to carry and sustain those whom he loves.


Photo by Raquel Martínez on Unsplash

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