Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cultural Blinders

The other day, I was speaking with my brother about Bernard of Clairvoux. I told him I wanted to read more of his work. Matt told me he is known as the theologian of love. Conversely, however, he was also the theologian of the crusades.

“That’s weird,” I remarked with a crinkled, confused face.

“It was his culture,” Matt astutely replied. “We are all susceptible to cultural blinders. We have them too.”

It makes me wonder: what are my cultural blinders?

Just now I started reading the book “The Heavenly Man” about Brother Yun. When he was a teenager, he fasted for 100 days for a Bible, only eating one bowl of rice at night. This story made me think of two things: 1) What should I be fasting for? Why am I not in more earnest for Christ? 2) Is the over-consumption culture in which I live blinding me from truth?

1) What would cause me to earnestly fast after the Lord? I am inspired by those who are seeking so much that they sacrifice so much comfort for the Lord’s benefit. I have often tried fasting before. For about a year, I fasted once a week, but it turned out to be a diet tactic shrouded by holy piety. I also feel that because of my particular struggles, fasting seems to be a stumbling block for me; I get so focused on NOT eating that again, my thoughts become about food and not about God at all. What is it like to give up everything in order to hear from God?

2) To go back to a common, early theme, my struggle is vanity, and I believe consumption (or over-consumption) has a lot to do with it. I believe I have too much of everything, but especially clothes and food. I am also led to believe that I need this much stuff. I need ten pairs of shoes, ten different hoodies, five jackets, etc. I need a variety of foods, lattes, hot chocolate, etc.

As far as food goes in my life, I would say that I have a very limited and simple diet, but it often leads me to believe I am hungry. I get discontent with my simple food. I want more, I go out and get more, more, more, more. It’s so readily available that I consume without thought. I feel as though I am constantly in consumption.

As for clothes, I have wanted to purge myself of my stuff, but I need a reason why. A clear reason why. Right now, I just have this small inkling that perhaps it would be better to have less, but I don’t know what God means by this inkling. Does he want me to give up so others can have what I have had and do not wear often? Does he want me to give up so that I learn to sacrifice? Both? How much? What do I give?

I want, as much as possible, to be aware of cultural blinders and eradicate their ensnaring powers in my life. I want Jesus to have all of me. Besides, all this “stuff” I have accumulated belongs to him and him entirely. I am a guest here; everything is his.

Soon, Elliott and I will be embarking on an adventure to Urbana. On this conference, we really hope and pray that we will have time to seek the Lord together, free from the distractions of our lives here at home. We will be forced to live very meagerly—on canned goods, beans, veggies, peanut butter, and rice cakes. For a week. It’s a sort of a fast, don’t you think? Maybe I will learn that we can live with very little. And as for packing, I do not need much. I should use this opportunity to leave with as little as possible, to escape distractions, to focus on the Lord.


  1. To clarify my "amen" -- may the LORD surprisingly, richly bless your simplifying and seeking over Urbana, and your preparations for it.

    May your sparsity give Him SPACE.

  2. I don't know what to say but I want to tell you I read this and was truly touched by all that the Lord has been inspiring you to even THINK about, and hopefully the living part will be even more of a learning experience.


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