Merely Existing

City Beach in Kelowna

Kelowna is full of life.

Beaches. Boats. Sun. Pretty People. Hiking. Volleyball. Literally anything fun you would want to do outside is within 30 minutes of the Canadian California. So why my did life feel so lifeless?

David Foster Wallace gave an incredible commencement speech at Kenyon College before he died where he talked about the “default-setting” of the posture of our lives. The Truth that the everyday life of the everyday person revolves around the self unless there is a deliberate choice to step out of that selfishness. Wallace says that we all worship. “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

We are quick to worship success, money, power, beauty, sex, and comfort. Comfort is the most elusive, self-serving, and sneaky temporary joys that we tend to build our life around.

David Foster Wallace
“They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”

Comfort is the classic over-hyped expectation machine. Comfort promises freedom from strees. Comfort will remove all worry and anxiousness. Comfort will provide meaning and fulfillment to an otherwise mundane life. Comfort is the cure to the monotonous 40-hour work week at a joyless job.

But we can see past this fragile exterior can’t we? When we look at our own pursuit of comfort we know that it only provides a temporary reprieve. And then we need more and more and more. We need a bigger house, a boat, more money so that I don’t have to be stressed out, more vacation time, more me time.

Besides the void that comfort promises and fails to fulfill is the sad reality that all comfort manages is to take an individual and turn all of their attention onto themselves. Comfort is the fuel of self-desire, self-pursuit, and a self-life.

I have a comfortable life, I won’t deny that. I live knowing that I have money to eat my next meal, a car to drive anywhere I would want, and friends to go to when I feel lonely. My life is filled with comforts. But it was in the middle of these comforts that I was shocked into an awareness of the emptiness in my soul. I hesitate to use that phrase because it sounds so other-worldly, and yet there is nothing else to describe a life that was spent merely existing.

This is where the paradoxical statement of Jesus confronts the reality of comfort we so often find ourselves in. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

Lose your life and you will find it. Give up your comfort and he will give you a new type of comfort. The foundational truth of those who follow Jesus, I mean truly follow him, is that he not only wants you to die to yourself, he wants you to experience a life that is like no other which is found only in him. The promise of the Jesus-Life is not dependent on what we have or the situation we find ourselves in. The promise of the Jesus-Life can be found in the anxiousness as well as the contentment. It can be found in tears and laughter. The Jesus-Life is the only promise that has weight because it is built upon the one who conquered death so that we do not have to merely exist. The Jesus-Life frees us from the selfishness of comfort and propels us into the selflessness of sacrifical love.

It is in this Jesus-Life consciousness that one can truly enjoy the comfort that God has given. No longer is the joy tied up in the temporal. The joy extends past the boats and beaches to the one who has given the boats and made the beaches. So when the boats rust and the beaches are washed away, the Jesus-Life person does not need to run to the next comfort to fill the void, they know that their life is found in the one who brings life.