Complacency, security, and status

It's well past midnight where I live, and I just can't sleep. For the past hour and a half I've been reading the book of Amos from God's Justice Bible. The intro to the text fantastically describes the context surrounding the book:
"Originally, in the time of the judges before the people of Israel had a king, each Israelite family had its own land in an agricultural society where wealth was decentralized. But during the period of the monarchy, a small group of powerful people around the kings use legal and illegal methods to seize the land of many people. Those who lose their land fall into poverty, and the powerful become very wealthy" (Sider and Davis, 1263). 
So, Amos--a shepherd turned prophet (i.e. a regular guy who smells like animal dung), is called by God to speak about Israel's future destruction due to the systems of injustice they created. Amos is speaking this message to the fat-cats in Israel who have gained their wealth by oppressing others (Amos 2: 6-8; Amos 5:10-13). Sider and Davis mention that Amos's message is particularly unpopular given that he is speaking about the future during a prosperous time for Israel. Nobody takes him seriously, and in the end, it costs Israel when they are defeated and taken over by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

You see: God hates injustice and oppression. He doesn't take either lightly. In fact, Amos 4:12 is ominous and terrifying: "'Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God." Isn't this chilling?! I mean, seriously.

What strikes me so much about Amos, though, comes later in chapter 5:21-6:7. In this section God calls out complacency, security, and status.


Why we left our comfortable church

Recently my husband and I made a difficult decision to leave the church we had been attending. We chose this church when we moved to our community two years ago  because it had excellent youth ministries, was close to our home, and it seemed to be growing. My husband and I took steps to get involved. Our kids were learning and forming relationships with adults who seemed to genuinely care for them. Of course, no church is perfect, but overall--we were comfortable in our church.

But...comfort was ultimately the problem.

Church services were carefully crafted with cool sets and timed with snappy videos. There was a light show and artificial smoke as a backdrop to pop-worship music. The church was recently renovated with a mixture of wood and steel giving the building a cool, industrial vibe. The pastor had catchy sermon titles with three predictable and mainstream points. There was a coffee shop outside the sanctuary.
Rock concert or evangelical worship set? 
It was all a very tidy, aesthetically pleasing, and comforting experience. There is nothing inherently wrong with aesthetics, and many people thrive in church settings like this one. However, for me, church began to reaffirm my white middle class existence and felt too much like American culture.


Silencing the inner critic

I tend to be rather critical of myself in pretty much all aspects: work, running, wife-ing, and mothering. I've always been my own worst enemy. At times, this quality is helpful as it pushes me to reflect and change and improve. But most times the critical voice inside my head is so damn annoying--like Janice's voice from Friends.

Sure you ran 11 miles, but you could've run a little faster. Did you hear that rude comment J said to K? You know he learned that from you, right? Don't bother applying for that job; you'll never get it. You're feeding your kids sandwiches again? When was the last time they ate something green? No, Skittles do NOT count. Your husband probably would be more happy with a more traditional, more feminine, and more stable woman. 

For me, this voice is loudest during moments of chaos--when the schedule gets busy and things begin to slip out of my control, and so, I fight and claw to regain that control. I do things like choose my kids' outfits when they're perfectly capable of choosing their own clothes. I reject all help from my husband. I run farther and faster. I snap at my kids when they drop crumbs on the table. As you can imagine, I am a very unpleasant person to be around when I let that Janice voice win out, and it happens more than I care to admit because it's so easy to focus on our flaws. It's easy to make a list of all we don't have, all we haven't accomplished, all of our mistakes and failures. Our culture lives with critique on the tips of our tongues because we are afraid of failing or being forgotten or messing up our kids.

Yesterday, J came home from school, and as he was unpacking his backpack, he asked me if he could tell me a sad story.

"Sure, bud. What's the story?"