On Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs held a press conference introducing the world to the new iPhone 4, Apple’s fourth-generation cell phone. From what I can tell, the improvements from this iPhone over previous iPhones are that it is thinner, has HD recording capabilities, has video chat, a longer battery life, is capable of streaming Netflix videos, has a high resolution e-reader, and has a host of other features that will supposedly change the way we communicate with the world.
One of the things that amazed me about the release of the new iPhone was an article I read on Yahoo.com shortly after the news conference. The author suggested that Steve Jobs, while highlighting all of the great things going on at Apple, failed to even mention Apple’s Mac laptop computers, and reading between the lines, what this means is that Mac computers are now yesteryear’s gadget. The thought is that they’re now too passé to even mention. Imagine that. I must have blinked and poof! They’re gone. Seems like yesterday that Macs were considered the sleekest, most stylish tech gadget to own. It’s not even close now. It’s not that Apple has intentions to stop making MacBooks. But Jobs, always considered a business and technology visionary, doesn’t consider them relevant enough to the future of technology to even mention them anymore. What an incredibly fast world we live in.
Ever feel like you’re unable to keep up? Ever feel like as the world appears to be getting newer, faster, and thinner, you’re getting older, slower, and…..hmmmm…..not thinner? The issue is bigger than tech gadgets though. Surviving technology advances just so that you can record the big game on tv or talk on the phone in 2010 is one thing, keeping up with the rest of the schedule of life is another. Can anyone do it? Does anyone honestly feel like they have it altogether? Let’s play this game: If you had to break your life down into percentages of how much of the time you feel like you’re thriving vs. how much of the time you feel like you’re merely surviving, what would it be?
Sometimes people refer to this type of existence – putting tons of time and energy into spinning the wheels for life’s common pursuits – as a “rat race”. As a Christian who tries very hard to keep a good perspective on things, I don’t know if a “rat” is the furry disease-carrier I’d compare myself most to. If I had to choose, I think I’m probably more of an opossum – often they’re fairly solitary, carry a lot of baggage with them, and sometimes get so stressed out that they nearly die, a defense mechanism that we refer to as “playing dead”. Did you know that opossums don’t technically pretend or “play dead” at all? Rather, what happens is that they get so stressed when they recognize a potential predator that this overwhelming feeling causes them to pass out! Funny animal. Then again, it’s not uncommon for me to awaken some mornings only to think about the things I “really should get done that day” only to find myself waking up 1/2 hour later, having overwhelmed myself (i.e. “possumed myself”) back to sleep. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the feeling of not wanting to get out of bed because the world sometimes seems too fast to keep up with is uniquely mine.
So when we read the front pages of life’s goings-on and we see another genius prodigy who has made another billion dollars by another internet company or we see another tech gadget that by the time we figure it out is going to be obsolete or we see another professional athlete or entertainer half our age who is living the life we’d always envisioned for ourselves, how are we supposed to feel? We’re struggling to get bills paid, projects done, kids to practice, and dinner on the table and Time magazine isn’t exactly knocking our doors down to ask us how we’ve accomplished such feats. The experience can be exhausting and deflating and you can bet that Satan will be right there in our ears whispering “loser” to make matters worse.
Maybe the Amish have it all right? They don’t ever look particularly stressed out. Certainly not because their battery died, their hard drive crashed, or their flight got delayed. Then again, they don’t look particularly happy either (not to mention they’ve run into a host of other concerns as a culture, like inbreeding-related genetic disorders). So maybe just giving up on modern life and isolating ourselves isn’t the answer.
Where do we turn? When we just can’t shake that “loser” feeling, when we’re up to like 8 Excedrin a day just to help deal with it all, Christians MUST remind themselves of the victory that they have in Christ. Life is going to get wild and crazy and overwhelming at times. There’s no “maybe” here. Jesus promises this is going to happen. Thank goodness it’s not our job to tame this world. Jesus already conquered it for us.
I love the dialogue Jesus has with his disciples knowing they are about to go through some sadness and fear (a feeling of being overwhelmed by the loss of Jesus and eventually by ministry tasks that seems larger than them). Jesus, nearing the end of his ministry, prepares them for surviving this life without his visible presence by saying to them, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy….I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:20-22, 33).
Now Jesus wasn’t talking about tech gadgets or jam-packed schedules, but he was acknowledging that the world is an easy place in which to get overwhelmed and discouraged. His opinion on it: no need to feel that way. He already won the battle so that we don’t have to feel like unaccomplished losers anymore. Much like Christ, whose victory on a cross didn’t initially resemble victory, our lives don’t always smack of success to the world. Then again, maybe just taking this world in stride, handling it the best we can, and doing so with poise and grace does seem special to the world. Did you know that several of the most influential writers/leaders in the early Christian church became such by seeing the strength with which early Christians faced persecutions in Rome? Tertullian said that the sight of martyrs aroused the wonder and admiration that impelled him to investigate Christianity. Justin of Caesarea (often called “Justin Martyr”) suggested, “the more such things (Christian persecutions) happen, the more do others, in larger numbers, become believers.”
You never know how your slow, simple, far-short-of-extraordinary, maybe even persecuted Christian life is affecting others. God does though. No matter how uninspiring you feel, if you let him, God will use you to inspire. No matter how far from “cutting edge” you perceive yourself to be, if you let him, God will use your faith as a startling revelation to another. Let Steve Jobs teach people how to instantly chat face-to-face with people around the world. You can teach people how to eternally speak face-to-face with God himself. Hmmm. Not so insignificant after all, are we?
I’m not advocating a hectic life. I’m simply acknowledging the fact that when you’re living in a meaningful way – working, parenting, serving, etc. – things are indeed going to get a little hectic at times. Allow yourself to be underwhelmed by this life though, knowing that Christ has already defeated this world, knowing that the chaos will one day come to an end, knowing that your healthy outlook will inspire others. Don’t worry so much about this world passing you by, but “Take heart”, because a better one is yet to come.