ABC News recently reported that there are more gun stores than grocery stores in America.
I've been thinking about this.
Beyond the desire to be happy, beyond the looming financial crisis, beyond the threat of the fiscal cliff, beyond the conversations around gun laws and gun control, beyond the speculations about the world coming to an end on December 21 -- beyond whatever, you fill in the blank -- there is in each of us an insatiable appetite for security, a longing for safety, a grasping for certainty.
Where does this desire get fed? Is there any place I might go and feel safe? How many guns, and how powerful must they be, to make me feel secure? How much money do I have to really have in my 401k before I'm sure I have enough?
Jesus once asked, "Why do you worry about your life, or what you'll wear, or what you'll eat? Why do you stress over life itself? Why do yo live with such angst about tomorrow or worry about your treasures, your money, your wealth? Do you not know that you cannot serve two masters! (Reference? Pretty much the entire sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.)
He nailed it, didn't he?
Here are those places where we feel most insecure:
"Why do you worry about your life?" The Dalai Lama said, "Humans are strange. They will sacrifice their health to make money; then, spend all their money trying to save their health." Fitness clubs abound, especially at the start of each new year because, in large measure, we worry about how we look, what others will think about how we look, what cell may be swimming in our gene pool just waiting for the chance to mutate and strike.
Which, of course, feeds our fear of...
"Why do you worry about what you'll eat?" asked Jesus. But we do. We stress over the food: what we eat, how much we eat, how little some eat, whether we should eat, what's in the food we do eat. The madness goes in many directions.
3. Oh, and then, there's Fashions
"Why do you worry about what you'll wear?" asked Jesus. "Look at the flowers of the field..." The other day, I caught myself standing in front of the mirror admiring the newest suit I had added to my wardrobe and wondered at how it looked on me and who I was likely to impress by wearing it that day and, well, I'm sure you're familiar with the routine. Then, the thought occurred to me, "You know, McSwain, if you spent half the time in your interior world as you admiring your exterior one, you'd be as enlightened as the Buddha.
Seems there's more...
"Why do you lay up treasure on earth?" Were he here today, he might ask it, "Have enough for your retirement? What about your 401k?" I don't know about you but every time I watch Susie Ormand, I'm depressed. How does anybody ever make enough to save enough income to survive six months if you get canned? Heck, I watch her to find ways of becoming more secure and, by the time the program's over, I've got more to fret over.
If the financial crash taught us anything in 2008, and I have my doubts about that, it is that nothing -- not even your 401k -- is secure anymore. If that wasn't bad enough, now there's the looming fiscal cliff?
As far as I'm concerned, I'm not too worried about the financial cliff. I fell over it in 2008. So, I refuse to worry about another cliff.
But I know many are.
So, what if it we do go over it? What could ever really happen that would bankrupt you of who you really are? Jesus said, "Look at the lilies of the field. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
What was Jesus really saying?
That I am the lily. So, are you!
What could be of more value than you?
"Well," you say, "all that you're saying McSwain would be OK, if it were not for the..."
Tomorrow, next week, the next random act of violence, next month, next year -- whatever it is. And yet, to this Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow!"
The newsperson today said, "Because of the fear that new gun restrictions may limit access to guns, gun sales are at an all-time high."
I wonder if the real reason gun sales are at an all-time high is because the feeling of security is at an all-time low? I have no way of proving this, but I suspect the real reason gun sales are breaking records is not because people are afraid of more laws but because people are afraid of having one less source of security.
How many guns does it take? How powerful do they have to be?
On this pathway to madness, there is, of course, no end.
No, I suspect there is no gun, or bomb, no AK-47, or Carry-Conceal permit that could ever feed the hunger for security -- for safety. Of course, we could arm all teachers and so protect our children?
Think that would do it? So, the answer to the problem of guns is school is more guns?
That's what I call good logic!
The lottery jackpots just keep getting bigger. What drives the sale of tickets? The illusion that, if I win, I will be secure -- my family, too -- and, of course, it always makes this prayer seem a whole lot less selfish when we strike bargains by saying, "Oh, and I'll give away millions and millions to charity."
Security. The one thing everyone wants. And the table is getting emptier by the day.
There is but one thing that can give you what you seek. All spiritual teachers in every tradition pointed to essentially the same truth -- the truth spoken, in this instance, by perhaps the greatest of all spiritual teachers.
Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom ... and all these other things will be added" (Matthew 6).
And what is the Kingdom?
Afraid not, my friend. Do not expect something external to give you what could only ever be found in the temple of your soul. Your inner world. Again, Jesus said, "The Kingdom is within you" (Luke 17:21). The Kingdom is the inner world where you and God live in union and walk in a garden of peace and security.
Go there, my friend, today, every day, in the new year, at every thought of this, and see what hungers inside you get satisfied!
Welcome to the banquet table of God. There's plenty of security here.
And Happy Holidays!