Friday, February 6, 2009

Good News in the Bad News

Every generation has things that are defining moments. I believe that for the Mosaic generation the recession that we are experiencing and the long-term economic impact that it will have will be one of those defining moments. As we have heard today (February 4, 2009) another 600,000 people lost their job this month, not to mention the many who have had their income reduce or are “underemployed” due to the economy. The question I have been struggling with is what are the key insights that we can take away from the difficulties that we are experience. I have come up with five. The economic crisis and its fallout: clarifies what’s important; eliminates excess; adjusts thinking; concentrates effort; and defines direction.

First, it clarifies what’s important. The tightening of the debt market, the panic over unemployment, and the increased costs of every day items has force us to clarify what is important. This is not just a “circle the wagons” mentality, but a value definition activity where we have the chance to get real with what we need, versus what we “want.” When we take a careful look at our lives we discover that a lot of what we consider necessities are actually luxuries. What seems to come to the top is that caring for people is far more important that buying more stuff.

Accompanying the clarification of what’s important comes the elimination of excess. Suddenly it seems preferable to drive that car another 50,000 miles rather than trade it in and place an additional financial burden upon our family system. Eating in becomes not only more economical but a joy. Rather than surround ourselves with purchased distractions we can eliminate the noise and enjoy the moment. We begin to realize how much excess we have.

Additionally, this crisis can act to adjust our thinking. We become more thankful for what we do have rather than so envious of what is missing. It moves us from an attitude of scarcity to a focus upon the blessings that surround our daily lives.

Crisis also concentrates our efforts. We are more able to focus upon what is right in front of us. The difficulty eliminates distraction. Suddenly our efforts are all directed toward family preservation, elimination of need and the assistance of those we love and those in our community.

Finally, crisis determines direction. In a world of a million options, once crisis occurs the peripheral options fade into the background and the path seems clearer and more direct. We realize that eliminating debt is far more important than immediate gratification. Decisions seem easier to make because crisis eliminates noise.

The economic downturn seems to be with us for some time to come. What will be needed from us is to continue to clarify what’s really important in our lives, adjust our thinking, concentrate our efforts and determine a direction forward. This set of events could well be the cornerstone of a generation that rejects the radical consumerism of the previous one and embodies an altruistic and communal nature not formally seen in our nation.

Gracious God who is with us in the valley of the shadow of death, help us not to live a life of fear, but a life that claims a new future. In the name of the Savior who suffered in order to conquer, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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