I am supposed to write about being free from the American Dream, presumably because I live outside the U.S. I am supposed to tell you how moving away from the U.S. cured me of my desire for unnecessary things, asthetically pleasing décor, and enslavement to fashion. One might assume that being a missionary in a third-world country instantly makes me forget how much I enjoy shopping and consuming. It might be tempting to envision me living humbly in a mud hut with jerry cans for water and drippy candles for light. I know these are common assumptions because for a time I believed them myself.
And then I moved to Uganda. My house is small, about half the size of our house back home. We don’t have hot water, our power goes out regularly, and I do most of my shopping in an open-air second-hand market. I don’t own a home or a credit card, we have one car that barely runs, no 401K, no family insurance plan or the security of living in a country that believes in the right to personal safety.
This DOES NOT set me apart from the American dream. In fact, I still battle the delicious lure of the brief pleasures of accumulating. I have more clothing than I can wear in a few months without repeating outfits. My fridge (though half the size of an American one) boasts of variety and choices in what I eat daily. I overspend on eating out occasionally and (this may shock you) I get pedicures. In a third-world country.
I realized I am still the American consumer to the core no matter where I live. The “dream” that has been bred in me to have what I want, when I want it, and in thirty different varieties, with a money-back guarantee is hard to overcome <click to tweet>.
In wrestling with writing this blog I decided I cannot offer “Five Steps to Make Due With Less,” “How to Let Go of the American Dream,” or any other self-help wisdom that will make much of a difference to you. However, I can offer what I know to be true.
No business plan, insurance plan, two-story house, credit score, vacation, or fashionable closet can compare to the riches of what we have in Christ. We get God for all eternity! When we set the idols of our heart on the all-consuming fire of God’s passion for our holiness, we are able to tear our eyes away from the façade of tangible things.
The security we search for in having a savings account and health insurance is our heart’s cry to be secure in a God who never fails <click to tweet>.
The desire for things is our broken soul’s attempt to medicate itself instead of drinking deeply of the satisfying waters of God’s spiritual provisions.
The dream we have of a mini-kingdom, ruled by ourselves, will be overthrown by a King who reigns supreme and usurps our laughable “authority.”
We can open our arms and embrace the challenge of waiting on God for earthly provisions, satisfactions, and comfort along with the promise of eternal ones, or we can clutch our empty decaying possessions to our chest with insatiable greed that will never fulfill us.
Being a missionary in a third-world country doesn’t make me an expert on this. Being a broken sinner tempted and lured every day toward tangible things render me just as needy for truth as you. I will battle this desire for MORE until the day I die. Yet I find comfort in knowing tat Jesus wants more for me than earthly security, the latest gadgets, up-to-date fashion, or the American dream.
I’d like to recommend the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt.
“This, we remember, is the great reward of the gospel: God himself. When we risk our lives to run after Christ, we discover the safety that is found only in his sovereignty, the security that is found only in his love, and the satisfaction that is found only in his presence. This is the eternally great reward, and we would be foolish to settle for anything less.”
Pray with me this month that our hearts would find the Giver of Gifts more appealing than the gifts and that Jesus would be more real than the promise of temporary trappings.
Loring Morris is a wife of thirteen years and mother of three biological kids and one Ugandan teenager living and working in Kampala Uganda. Visit Loring’s website, or connect with her on Facebook.
*Photo: ranjithd via Stock Exchange
Tricia Goyer says
This is powerful, Loring. Thank you for sharing your heart! It’s something that we all battle with, don’t we? I’m thankful for Christ! I’m thankful that He continually pushes us toward Him, instead of allowing us to be satisfied by our own desires.
Kathy Howard says
Loring, thank you for your transparency in this post. God has been hitting me over and over again in recent months with this same truth. I’m seeking His guidance on how this needs to translate to my daily life and what changes need to be made in the lifestyle I have established – our house, cars, habits, etc. Thank you again for sharing!
Arrrggghhh! Its so hard isn’t it? I write these things and then I sit back and say, wait….am I DOING this? I am about to head back to the states in a week and I’m already making shopping lists in my head.
Andrea Cox says
Thanks, Loring. I really enjoyed reading your story of the American dream and how it doesn’t go away if you move away. Living for God is the ultimate, and our American dreams sometimes get in the way of that. Learning to set things and places and wants and desires aside and live the way God wants us to is difficult but most definitely worth it. May He continue to bless you in your work for Him.