Having moved from Cape Town to England 2 months ago, I’ve had an interesting time analyzing how life is lived in London.
Things I think may impede Londoners being fully invested in one another’s lives, and thereby perpetuating the fast-paced, ‘no time for anyone but me’ syndrome:
– Traffic/travel time
– Travel costs
– Having kids
– Unhealthy work culture: either overworked, or deriving one’s identity from professional success – both leading to looong hours.
– Zeitgeist of independence
– Too busy or too British to know our neighbours.
– Specifically for Christians, or church-goers – caught up in task-oriented church activities most evenings/weekends.
– Never lived in a close-knit group of people before, so can’t imagine it
I believe this can, and often does, lead to a diluted view of what the word ‘community’ means. That we, inherently relational beings, are often living in isolation midst a densely populated city of 8 million others, seems like a pretty good definition of irony. This can lead to friendships where, unless you’re living together, you can only humanly be part-committed to those whom you count as good mates. It seems a sort of sub-conscious friend culling happens – you can only have a limited amount of people in your life in whom you’re fully invested.
A book I LOVE, called ‘Submerge: Living Deep in a Shallow World’ challenges us to move into areas of need and brokenness. More on that another time, but a quote in it says:
‘In the West it’s too easy for [us] to become caught up in our own autobiographies. We are fully invested in our own over-scheduled lives. And we have made it difficult to retreat from these driven lives because we have come to construe them as normal.’ (John Hayes)
And this is the elephant in the room – that maybe we are all caught up in our own autobiographies. That maybe, due to brokenness, insecurity, comparison, and the myth of a ‘First World Quality of Life’, we end up equating busyness to self worth. Essentially, this means the more full my diary is, the more important, loved and significant I feel.
Wanting to be significant is a GOOD thing. It’s a sign of childlikeness – all kids talk about being something significant when they’re older – before they get inoculated by grey, ‘reasonable’, limited dreams.
Jesus’ message back in the day, which is just as relevant to 21st Century London, was essentially – ‘another world is possible, right here on earth’. This, he called the Kingdom of God. The ones he had the biggest problem with were those who took themselves over-seriously, and equated importance with religious activity. Who were the ones who he commended, to whom he said the Kingdom of God belongs? Children. The ones who dream of significance, not because they feel a insecurity rising up in them whilst looking at the packed iphone diary of an anonymous, silent, suited stranger next to them on the daily commute – but because we were ALL made to be significant.
And here’s the thing – ‘kingdom significance’ seeks not to be significant IN the eyes of the world, but FOR the eyes of the world. Maybe if we all decided to do one less thing a week, and began a little movement of friends being deeply interested in doing life, and committed to each other, the resulting depth of significance and relationships would be so attractive to others that they couldn’t help but ask what it is we have that they don’t. The answer would be – Kingdom, essentially.