Monday - minister's day off. It was at the end of over a week of nights out and full on days. Though some of the nights were very pleasant, nights out catch up on you and you become kind of "peopled out". Last night we spent a delightful evening with a whole bunch of Indian young people and two Indian families in a Birthday Party for our friend Malini. We met some delightful and beautiful people and had a great time. They dressed Jean in a Sari! But today a kind of "heaviness" descended on me.
I slept in which was nice, then devoured the paper. Political controversy featured on the front page. Someone among our leaders is telling lies... one wonders who among them ever tells the truth? Inside there was a story of a gambling addict, who within the space of a month or two became addicted to poky machines and the figures for addiction were astounding. I know people in our drop-in centre who are addicted, or who spend too much time playing for the amount of income they have.... hoping to become rich... some how. I read of environmental difficulties brought on by incredible quantities of waste we produce. I read also of the economy in Sydney.... the article said there were two economies. Some were doing very well, but for a growing number of families the rent or mortgage payments were becoming impossible. I know people here in Dunedin caught in a poverty trap and am aware that already there are job losses in the latest more difficult time in the economy. I know heaps of people wanting to become richer than they are, because in that they think they will find happiness.
We went up town. For reasons I won't go into, I wanted more comfortable underpants. We were going to buy some, deliver stuff to our daughter's house and spoil ourselves having lunch "out". We wandered a shop or two, and that's when the heaviness set in. There were adverts pleading for me to buy this and that. There was the underlying assumption that this would bring happiness. I remembered too the people I knew who go beyond their means searching for that elusive happiness, just to "keep up with the Jones'." All these made me want to scream at the materialism, consumerism and the underlying assumptions that run our society that were represented all about me. I guess I was feeling the heavy cost that we pay in human happiness by getting sucked into this destructive current. Because of the values we live amongst we spit people out the back end and make people feel worthless because they struggle to measure up. I am aware too that even the richest of us, with all the material attractions, end up with an emptiness inside that won't go away. I am aware too, that our riches in the west cost people in poorer countries. I felt a depression, an almost panic, a need to run from town and decided to do just that. Instead of having lunch "out" I headed over the hill to home. We decided we would buy some lunch supplies at the supermarket and make our own.
I drove over the hill looking down into the valley that we live in. There was a breeze blowing and clouds of yellow pollen blowing up from the pine plantations about our house. I thought to myself, "I am living amongst that! I am breathing it in! No wonder my chest is playing up! Even though I am basically unaware of it, I am probably breathing that stuff in every day." Then I thought how that was an apt illustration of how we live. We live in the midst of the materialism, the consumerism and the false values and promises these offer. We breathe them in and they affect our inner well being much more than we realise. They are like a poison, eating at human happiness in our houses, places of work and in our social life. How do I in my ministry and life stand up against this pollution? How do I show a different way? God has been challenging me on that since the early 1970's, and he won't shut up! Even on Mondays... the minister's day off!