I reconnected with a family that I had met about seven years ago in Papua New Guinea when I spoke at a missionary school for New Tribes Missions. Now back in McKeesport, and ministering in a local church in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, the Ryder family remembered my story and invited me out to speak on three separate occasions: I spoke for an overnight junior high event, for a high school retreat, and then at a Sunday evening church service for the adults.
When we came out of the tunnel on the way back from the airport on that first night, the view of downtown Pittsburgh was a spectacular sight. I was fascinated by the architecture of the bridges spanning the Three Rivers’ area as well as the center of the metropolis towering in front of us – the city was compacted with its milieu of skyscrapers, its bright lights, and the traffic streaming along the city boulevards. As I reflected upon my winter season of speaking, I thought about my transient lifestyle much like the mentality of the electricity that hums throughout downtown in any major city.
Life is much like a metropolis. Our culture embraces this buzzing atmosphere where our immediate circumstances consume us: the bright lights of busy schedules make us appear bigger than life; the hype in the purchase of commodities fill our emptiness; the venues of resources distract us; and the magnificent buildings we construct as prominence identifies our security within the realm of the status quo. We are engulfed into the dynamics of socialization, this myriad of interaction, that has conditioned us to believe that our lives always have to be popping, loud with the traffic of activity, or we equate its absence and lack thereof as though something were wrong with us.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). One of my speaking adventures during this long weekend was at a retreat for high school students, which took place two hours north of Pittsburgh in a luxurious 40+ – room mansion deemed “The Castle,” and it was here that we looked at the significance of what it means to be a child of God and the importance of being a participant in His Kingdom. I discussed with the students how we become so saturated by the messages of our culture that we forget who we are, and yet all the while we still seek out forms of false significance, believing lies and becoming chameleons of a generation that would rather fit in than stand out.
A far cry from the primitive tribes found scattered throughout Papua New Guinea, we have somehow abandoned the basics found in preserving a thriving livelihood in exchange for the commerce of a metropolis that affects the economy of our existence. I reminisced the green hillsides of Papua New Guinea with the Ryder family, the terrain of those dense trees overhanging the pristine landscapes, and I appreciated once again what it was like for me to be in one of the remotest parts of the world seven years ago. Papua New Guinea was a place that taught me about the essentials in life, opening my eyes as I watched the locals relying on the most basic of necessities to sustain their own livelihood.
I began to process all of this while driving through downtown Pittsburgh. Reflecting upon my own life, it occurred to me that the imagery of the metropolis before me reiterated a lost significance that makes us long for the essential. The glamour surrounding a metropolis soon wane, but our hearts are still very much primitive and desires the necessities that matter most; this King we have access to as His children, and the purpose we find from being participants in His Kingdom.
Our true solace is not found from the glitz associated with an electric atmosphere, but rather it is identified in the hush that is frequently missed in a slow-paced world that still remains rural. May our lives not be engulfed in a metropolis so loud that we forget who we are!