This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org
By Lauren Spohn ’20. Lauren is a junior in Currier concentrating in English.
We live in a paranoid generation.
I think I speak for most of my peers when I say that I’m terrified about the future. It’s not the same kind of anxiety that our grandparents or great-grandparents felt. We’re not exactly worried about getting stuck in a small town, bankrupting the family business, or failing to get someplace because whatever opportunity we needed wasn’t open to us.
We have the world at our fingertips. We can travel, blast out our @ivyleague.edu emails, and be pretty much whatever we want to be when we grow up. So why is everyone so stressed out?
Now that we’re privileged with the chance to choose, we’re paranoid about making the wrong decision. The more options we have, the higher the opportunity cost of choosing one option. Call it the paradox of choice, existential FOMO, the bigger utility loss incurred when I choose between a Snickers Bar and a Twix than when I choose between a Twix and nothing. If you only have one door to open, you never have to deal with the thought of all the doors you didn’t. No slight imperfection in whatever path you’ve chosen throws you into bitter regret for the choice you made, or keeps you paralyzed in the hallway searching for the one perfect door that leads to the life of maximal…. Achievement? Experience? Meaning? What does that even mean?
So here we are, a couple thousand years after the writing of Psalm 53, “overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread.” What will it take to convince us millenials–what will it take to convince us to convince ourselves–that there is no perfect life out there, and so no imperfect life to dread?
I can’t offer a panacea for postmodern panic. But I can point out the people that the Psalmist puts opposite the 6th century BC millennials: “God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (53:2). Notice that the people God’s looking for aren’t people who have found God. They aren’t the people who have kept all the commandments, who have chosen and walked through perfect door after perfect door… They’re the people who are seeking God–the people who go around knocking, asking the Lord to open up what door they should choose.
When we seek Jesus Christ, when we look up every once in a while, we realize that no matter what kind of opportunities we have, and no matter what kind of opportunities we miss, there is absolutely nothing for us to dread. Our Lord has overcome the world. If we know what the end game looks like, does it really matter how we get there, so long as we’re following Him?
We still have to make decisions, but if we make those decisions with eyes fixed on Christ, we’ll know that we have nothing to fear because the greatest decision has already been made.