why escape a great reality: a christian’s response to escapism

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“Can’t find paradise on the ground” – Oh Wonder

This quote is by one of my favorite artists. I used to think it said “I’ll find paradise on the ground,” and that was the most exciting, intriguing statement in the world– because that’s what we are all trying to do, right? Find home and excitement and love right here in our little everyday lives?

I was wrong. I looked it up, was sad about the actual lyrics, but still so intrigued.

See, the song is about escapism. It’s about our generation, dying to click on the next thing, watch the next episode, turn the page, listen to the newest song. Living in nostalgia of lives we never had and drowning out the heartbreak with media, locking ourselves away from the world.

“All we do is chase the day.” – Oh Wonder

Funny and relatable memes capture this stamp of our generation with quotes:

“People say life is a thing but… Netflix.”

“I like characters more than I like the people in my actual life.”

Even the gorgeous picture at the top had this as the caption:

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This phenomenon isn’t unique to our generation; it’s an ache that has echoed since the fall of this world. Since the first bite of the fruit, our hearts have been in starvation-mode for the full communion, to walk in the garden with our Creator, to be with God in full. We have been deprived of paradise since then. We can’t find it on the ground. 

And so we taste all the fruits: the fruit of approval, the fruit of appearance, the fruit of career success, the fruit of money, the fruit of adrenaline, the fruit of nature and creation, fruit of lust and sex, the fruit of having a “clique,” the fruit of entertainment, the fruit of human family, the fruit of substance abuse, and each one seems to work for a second, maybe even for a season. But these fruits eventually fail. Though they tasted so ripe at first, they have fallen from the tree and rotted.

So, if you are a do-good millennial, you turn to this escapism, one fruit that doesn’t look so bad from the outside. A type of escapism that can be hidden behind words like “nerdy” and “a book fanatic.” A type of escapism that’s okay, that’s not bad stuff like pornography and drunkenness.

It’s looking for the a new fantasy adventure book to read, because Hogwarts is so much better than our world.

It’s daily pinning all those wedding ideas, because once he says “I do,” my life will be the fantasy I’ve always dreamed of.

It’s waiting for the next album to come out, because I can drown out all my feelings with headphones.

It’s looking for the Netflix show to watch, because I hate socializing and facing the rejection of others. I hate school work because it’s too hard. At least I can feel like I’m part of the (insert TV show) community, at least I get a sense of worth from these characters.

It’s being on the prowl for the next boy/girl to date, so I can create my own fantasy life through my Instagram.

It’s sometimes even “I can’t wait for the next mission trip” because for a little while, I’ll feel close to God. I’ll feel like the Church is actually working.

And no one says anything, because it’s so easily hidden; it’s accepted. It’s not even questioned. It’s honestly considered just fine.

The escapist moments are so sweet, but let me gently remind you: these are not real. They just aren’t. You can dream all you want (I’ve done it myself), but Hogwarts isn’t a real place. You might be called to singleness instead of marriage. The boy/girl friend can call it off with one phone call. The fantasy fiction is exactly that: fantasy and fiction. That artist isn’t going to make music forever. The episodes, beyond being fake, will eventually lose their luster.

You can run from it forever, but this life is what we are given.

And so it rings: can’t find paradise on the ground.

But in midst of this, I hear Christ’s promising words:

“Today, you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:43b

(If you don’t know the context of the statement above, feel free to look it up! Luke 43:26-43)

I realize this verse might seem to be used out of context, but allow me to explain. The criminal who Jesus was addressing was facing his reality: he was a deep sinner, in need of deep redemption and the way he did life was not what he had hoped. So he didn’t ignore the pain or run away from his reality, he simply asked Christ if he could be with Him in his kingdom. And Christ granted his request, naming this kingdom where God lives as paradise.

The present reality is yes, we will not find satisfaction here completely. There will only be momentary bliss that will fade.

“All we do is feel the fade” – Oh Wonder

But follow this criminal’s example, and don’t try to escape reality so quickly, friends.

The true reality, beyond what our tempestuous hearts can see is a much different story that this dreary story we paint our lives to be.

Paradise is here, partially.

It’s found in letting go of your plan for romance, and asking Him to walk with you today.

It’s found putting down the book, and holding fast to Him in the most ordinary parts of the day.

It’s found in cutting off the social media, and sharing His great rescue with the person sitting next to you.

It’s found in putting down Snapchat at the end of a hard day and emptying yourself before Him and boasting in nothing but the cross instead.

It’s found in laying down your pride, in stopping doing what you think is best for you, and laying down at His feet.

And in this, He will equip you on a journey to real paradise: communion with Him.

As we wait for Him, He has equipped you with every spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 1:7) to take on this life with full-force, to take on the hard days, to give Him your burdens, to let your guards down, to be taken advantage of and still have hope, to engage this world and all its nastiness and come out victorious. (Check out my “About this Blog” page for an awesome verse that correlates with this pouring-out.)

And maybe victory will look different than how we imagine it, but His victory will prove itself eternal, never fading, never ending, forever satisfying if we let it.

The reality is that if we stop hunting for the next most colorful fruit, we might find that He has been waiting for us to call out to Him to quench our thirst this entire time.

The reality is that we have been given all the tools you need to engage this dreary world with hopeful eyes and a cup overflowing with joy. Will we use them?

The reality for those that put their faith in Christ is that the God who spoke bones from ash is pursuing our beating hearts every second of every single day.

Now, dare to believe this reality, and ask yourself:

Why would I want to escape that?

With all love,

Mary Madeline


 

Disclaimer: There is nothing inherently wrong with fantasy fiction, dating, Netflix, social media, music, or anything else I listed. Nor is there anything wrong with being a “nerd” or a “book fanatic.”  I take part in most all of these activities! It’s just when we let ourselves turn to these things as a source of emotional-drowning vs. a source of recreation/a way to relax/a hobby, it becomes a problem, because we aren’t bringing forth our emotions to the true fountain of life that can quench all our longings and handle all of our insecurities, fears, etc.

It all goes back to this question:

For what purpose are you using the media/art source?

So don’t for a second think that I think you’re terrible and awful for doing these things. (Who cares what I think anyway? Haha.) It’s the intention behind it. And only really you and Jesus can come to terms with that for you. Only me and Jesus can really know that for me.

But, if you’re reading this, and you know this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to check out one of my favorite blogger’s post Why I No Longer Read Fiction, where she discusses her motives in quitting a draining habit and replaced it with a more life-giving one. Maybe you’ll feel inspired to take your desires before the Lord and do a cleanse from your “accepted” weakness! I know I’ve had to do this before, and the Lord really drew me close through it. 🙂 Best wishes.

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