I am aware of all of the hate that my generation gets. We Millennials are the worst generation yet. We are apathetic. We are obsessed with the internet and put our social media lives before our real ones. We text more than we talk to people. We live in our parent’s basements. We aren’t courageous. We want everything done for us. And while some of these stereotypes are true and others are not, there is one aspect Millennialism that I find more disturbing than any other. It’s our obsession with inspiration.
Let me back up a little bit. Reflecting on my childhood I realize that I was taught three things through my culture: 1) Failure is bad. Never fail. And if you have failed you have done something terrible because normal people don’t fail. 2) All of your power, worth, and happiness can be found within yourself. Self-esteem is the most important thing. People with high self-esteem are successful and those with low self-esteem fail (see point 1). 3) You can do anything you put your mind to. Be an astronaut! Be a doctor! There are no limits to what you can achieve if you simply put your mind to it.
The equation went something like this: (A) By happy about yourself + (B) putting your mind to it + (C) never failing = (D) successful life.
While there are many ways to show how this 90’s equation of happiness is wrong, I rather want to focus on what it produces. A person who is constantly not happy with who they are, desperate to find something to put their minds to, and who is terrified of failure.
This recipe creates a inspirational nomad. Someone who finds something to “put their minds to” and goes all in, and there are plenty of options: coffee, hipsterism, ALS, Haiti, politics, environmentalism, social justice, Kony 2012, and even Jesus. Money is spent. Plane tickets are booked. Rallies are held. Yet as the months pass by and the threat of failure looming, the inspirational nomad realizes that for all their fervor and passion, they still don’t feel happy about themselves.
They’ve been trying to solve for X in the life equation: X + B + C = D. But hard work, never failing, and pretending to have a successful life never makes people happy. It has a high, but it doesn’t last. So the inspirational nomad is back to square one, looking for the next thing to be inspired by.
The Idol Of The Self
From a Biblical standpoint, the problem is crystal clear and as old as sin. Idolatry. Biblical idolatry is very easy to grasp but harder to discern within our own hearts. It is anything that we make more important than God and look to for our identity and worth. We are all guilty of it and start our lives with an insatiable longing for it. For the inspirational nomad the idol is the inspiration itself. I must continue to seek and find the inspirational thing that I can be passionate about and that will give me self-worth.
But like all idols, they never satisfy. So the inspirational nomad moves from thing to thing and from place to place. Never settling. Never getting roots. Constantly feeling that their dissatisfaction with their own hearts will be cured by the next big inspirational thing. It won’t. It can’t. And this can go on for years, even decades. They justify it with selfies at the rally and blog posts. They change their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter to match their inspiration. It dominates their lives and it’s constantly on their lips. But when the passion fades, they find themselves back at the beginning. As the inspirational nomad looks back on their lives they’ve seen a lot things, they have a lot of stories, but not the thing they most desire: satisfaction and peace. They are war torn and weather beat by being tossed to and fro by the waves. Oh how they would love to find dry land.
And it’s crazy that Jesus can even been one of these inspirational idols. The inspirational nomad sees his power and is drawn. They see his Spirit move among the congregation and do powerful, genuine, things among his people. They desire that. Yet, they see it though the lens of their idolatry. They want Jesus to make the inspired, not to be their Lord and Savior. They walk and talk like someone who has been touched by God. For months Jesus is always on their lips and they seem to be all in. Yet, when the emotions end and the command comes to them to “be still and know that he is God” and to “pickup their cross and follow him.” They bolt. Jesus is dropped from their vocabulary. They don’t come to church anymore. They only claim Christianity to continue to be hip and relevant for the next inspiration that comes their way.
But Jesus is the answer. He isn’t less inspirational, he is more. He is the source of inspiration. Yet Jesus didn’t die on a cross to be inspiring. He died to solve for X in the equation. He died to provide us with a new heart and a new identity. An identity not based upon getting inspirational, but on getting what the idols promise to deliver but can’t: peace, joy, security, satisfaction, worth, love, forgiveness, and inspiration.
My generation, listen, God is calling you to more. He is calling you to more than self-esteem. He calling you to more than something to be passionate about. He is calling you to more than to get inspired. He is calling you to new life. To Living Water. To the Bread of Life. Stop running. Surrender to the King. You will find what you have always desired. You will find what you were made for. God himself.