Christmas is over. The rush is finally quieting down and many will feel a let-down; as if life has collapsed on itself. Our internal superstructure to hold everything together can’t bear the weight of our fatigue and many of us fall apart in this dark part of the year. This December I quietly notice superficiality at every turn but appreciate little surprises of exquisite beauty and depth, especially in a couple of church services and conversations with friends. These little wonders are the exception, sadly, and now the glitter has faded and we pick up what is left. The Christmas hangover is hard to take. I expect philosophers, poets and writers to point out the hollowness of our culture and it didn’t take me long to fill a whole page of similar observations, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s famous quip, “Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century.”
The Russian novelist suffered enough to earn the right to say such a thing as an observation rather than a complaint. It is perhaps too much to expect that the secular world has lost the thread of God’s story of redeeming us back to Himself, to repairing intimacy with Him and renovating the image of Christ in our fallen natures. False gods and idols offer excitement and glitter over substance and collapse often before one month is spent and a new god must replace the tarnished pin-up. The collapse is so obvious that even ardent secularists point out the obvious; the things we own or the clothes we wear do not define us. Character matters. Paris Hilton might not have any idea what a soup kitchen is but her “brand” appeals to almost no one.
It is one thing to notice a weakness; quite another to develop the lost virtue. I am concerned that Christians are often as lost as the secular world. Gene Edward Veith Jr. points out that
There is a great superficiality in today's evangelical world. Many Bible-believing Christians share the contemporary case for self-gratification, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism. Many people who believe in the Bible have never read it.
Reading the Bible brings you face to face with a God who desires a relationship, even when we are too self-absorbed to care. Our destination is union with God, friendship with Christ, fellowship in the Spirit, to tag just a few biblical phrases and the roadmap, itinerary or North Star is found in the spiritual practices of prayer and allowing the words of Christ to abide in us.
Is this too spiritual, archaic or antiquated to say? You meet Jesus when you read the Bible, if you have ears to hear. Prayer connects you to God, if you listen and stop reciting all the things you want to gratify your own desires. What you deeply desire is an attachment with the maker of the universe. Your soul longs to bond with the infinite being that can bear the weight of all that you have experienced. The core of an inner life that has any strength, that goes beyond superficiality or that exudes vitality is saturated with the words of God. Every other ingredient is far too flimsy to build character.
In this new year I hope that your desire to read the words of Jesus and to get to know Him will explode. Something solid will emerge that will carry the worries, cares, pain and darkness you’ve experienced. But remember, prayer and reading the Bible, are not boring or pointless exercises. They are life so embrace them!
Gene Edward Veith Jr.,Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World