Everywhere we work, Reconciled World seeks to nurture truth and confront lies. We firmly believe that the lies of this world separate us from God, create poverty, feed injustice, and hold people in bondage. So we seek to identify those lies and then expose them to the light of truth. The result, by the power of God, is transformation.
The trouble is, our own lies are the hardest ones to identify. They are woven into our culture, our family, our life experiences… They feel like truth. Other people’s lies seem so obvious to us, while our own are slippery and shadowed.
In her book Anything, Jennie Allen takes us on a journey of discovering her own lies…lies that are so prevalent in the American culture that most of us will identify with her if we read with vulnerability. She writes, “Somewhere along the way, even with grace sung all around me, God had become morality to me. God had become the American dream. God had become a white Republican, and he wanted me to have a nice home and a nice family with a fence to keep us all safe” (page 60).
“I look around and see currents that have dug deep crevices in our culture and eventually carved into our souls. Currents that make us think,
- This seventy to eighty years of a life feel long and important.
- Comfort and safety are worthy pursuits.
- Stuff matters.
- Happiness is my right as an American.
- Moral living pleases God” (page 93).
As she encounters God in new ways, Jennie becomes ever more convinced that the American Dream is holding her back from fully surrendering to God. She says,“…the more we build everything just right, the more protective we get of it” (page 45).
The truth that puts to death the lie of the American Dream is this: God’s heart is for the poor and His followers must therefore care for the poor. Many Christians I know feel that caring for the poor is a special calling for the super-compassionate. They are waiting for a voice from Heaven to give them specific instructions regarding the poor before they will act. I spent years in that place. But the truth is, the mandate to love the vulnerable and the warnings about hoarding wealth are all over Scripture. Insisting God speak it directly to us is somewhat like saying we’ll stop lying or start being faithful to our spouses only if we hear it directly.
To take it a step further, the truth is not a concept, it is an act of obedience. Taking loving action toward the vulnerable, whether you are feeling it or not, is a powerful cure for the lie of the American Dream. Jennie:
“There are a lot of people he cares about who need parts of our lives. He actually looks around the planet and points, saying, Over there—give it to them. When we walk over there and give it to them, we feel God, his heart and power boiling up. What a privilege to walk near to the heart of God. It is impossible to avoid the call in Scripture to take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan…. Jesus takes normal, numb lives and pours them over the lives of those in need. When your excess is poured out over the hurting, those in need of God, of healing, of food or water…all of a sudden what you thought mattered doesn’t matter anymore” (page 174).
Many Christians I know are really busy thinking and talking about caring for the poor. Some days I would fit into that category. I laughed out loud at Jennie’s exhortation on that topic, “We aren’t going to get to heaven and have God say, ‘Thanks for talking about doing so much for me with your friends. That was awesome!’” (page 170).
Anything is a spiritual memoir of an American Christian middle-class mom. If more than half of those words describe you, you will probably find many connection points with this book. I recommend you read it. To all of us, Jennie issues the challenge to daily surrender our lives to the One who purchased us at great price. The result may be radical, or apparently very ordinary, but will always be beautiful.
“But when I prayed anything, what I feared would bind me set me free. It stung like death, and it still feels like death, but that feeling is the key turning in the lock. On the other side of the pain is freedom, peace, joy, hope, the loss of control, and it is how I was made to live” (page 103).