Bubble-wrapped people

"Bubble-wrapped people." Sounds a little weird, doesn't it?

It certainly did to me, though bubble-wrap is not a new idea. We all know "bubble wrap," a plastic packing material with small air "pillows" in it. It's used to surround some object to isolate it from what's around it and protect it.

But people? Did you ever think of bubble-wrapped people? Probably not, though they're not uncommon, walking through life securely protected from the evil and pain in the world. I think to an extent, at least in western culture, most people live with some degree of insulation protecting them from whatever they perceive as a threat.


But being insulated is not a good thing. It diminishes our lives. The thicker our insulation, the smaller our world. As we are protected from hurting, we are also prevented from loving. As we avoid pain, we are deprived of passion. We become cardboard people, all surface and no depth.

But we don't hurt. At least we think we don't hurt. We quickly become oblivious to the dull ache of emptiness in us. In fact, we are "protected" from living rich lives as fully human beings, as people who reflect the image of their creator. We become emotionally hollow and dead.

These lives are neither deeply satisfying nor do they honor our God.

But there's another aspect of this bubble-wrap problem, perhaps related.

God made us for a purpose. It wasn't like he was sitting around on a slow Friday afternoon, too early to shut down and go home, and he had a little stuff left over from his week of creating. "Hmm... I've got another 5 minutes before quitting time, so I think I'll throw this stuff together and see what I can make from it." And there we were.

Didn't happen.

God is a God of purpose, and he made us for a purpose. A glance at the first couple chapters of Genesis will show that. The initial purpose (never rescinded) was to care for the earth (1:28). But then Jesus added something new and important. Most of the people on this earth didn't and don't know God or anything about him. Jesus came to remedy that, but understood that he was one person living in one small area for a few short years, and that more needed to be done. Much more.

So he called us, the people who would come to know and follow him. And he gave us an instruction above what was given in Genesis: Make disciples. Teach people how to know and follow Jesus, and carry on the purpose that brought him here (Matthew 28:19; John 20:21-23; II Corinthians 5:20).

But there's a problem. Many of us who claim to follow Jesus are bubble-wrapped. We have lives carefully protected from the nasty, evil world. We live in a world populated by people who believe as we do and have little contact with others. Many of us don't even know someone who isn't a "Christian." Our friends all look like us.

There are two main problems with such a life. First, it's just boring. It's self-centered, and it creates a world where everyone is alike.

I am amazed at the difference in my life since I moved into a neighborhood and church that is intensely multicultural. My world now looks a lot more like the kingdom of God. And I have opportunities to bring God's grace into the lives of those who don't know about him. Like the Buddhist friend from Burma who has asked me to fix his computer this afternoon.

Second, an insulated life for a Christian is wrong. It flatly disobeys the command of Jesus to make disciples, and generally is unconcerned about it. We can't make disciples of people we don't know.

I was one of those people for years, and didn't even know it. I lived in white, middle class neighborhoods, attended white, middle class churches, and even worked in places that were fundamentally white, middle class, and "Christian."

Then I was somehow drawn to live in the city and join an urban church. This was no small matter for a country boy from Colorado. But I followed the pull, and was amazed at what I found. There was a world I didn't know existed. People far different from me who also call themselves Christians. And people far different from me who bring unexpected blessing and richness into my life.

But first, I had to be willing to pop the bubbles.

6 Comments

I like this. It's good. It's just occurred to me that I don't understand certain doctrines
well enough. Reading stuff by theologians is a good idea. So much emphasis these days on evangelism and not enough on discipleship, which IMO is evangelism and
much more.

God blessed you to allow you to grow up in the Bubble world. You did not have to experience the traumas of child abuse or hunger or addiction. You are able to move from a position of tremendous strength not having been broken down in such ways as a child. Now God will use you in a powerful way in the urban setting to provide healing to those traumatized. But you could not do one without the other. Sometimes the bubble world is not such a bad thing - especially for a kid. We do all have to grow up some day.

Kathi,

Thanks for your comment. I must confess, however, that you make some assumptions about me. I did not grow up in any sort of bubble world. Nor was I protected from abuse. And that's not the sort of bubble I was talking about, in any case, but rather a "sterilized" world created by adult Christians that results in their minimizing contact with the nasty outside world.

Larry,

Thank you for sharing such thought-provoking insights. I am, and have been for far too long, living a comfortable life. Until recently, few things have come close to bursting this bubble. My step-sister just came back into my life after 30+ years due to my mom and step-dad's divorce when I was a kid. As I've prayed about the best ways to help her using my 20 years of experience living here it has brought me to a place in time when I was new to the city and needed the kindness of family and new Christian friends.

I'm leaning a lot on God to show me wisdom in ways that are helpful without being enabling. I know I can trust him to show me ways I can help and also provide opportunities for her and her companion to get a solid footing.

Kathi,

I read your comments and it kind of struck me because I grew up in poverty and abuse. There was certainly no bubble protecting us from pain or want but I can point to every fragment of my life and say "I see where God put that person in my life for a reason". In the darkest of nights, there was always one person who showed miraculous love and care for me and my family.

I share this because I think it was the very lack of being protected that spurred three of my six siblings to aspire to a life where we would never know that pain again or bring it upon a new generation. But, it is easy to put a noble face on self-protection. After my dear friend, Rachel, passed away, I had been consistently praying for God to give me opportunities to pour my life into someone else as she had done for so many. I do believe that God is saying "Here you go!" :)

It's hard because it has shaken up my cozy little world, but at the same time, I'm excited to see what God is going to do in this situation and how other opportunities are going to spring board off of this one.

Under His Mercy,

-Norah

Norah,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am excited that God is doing new things in your life. That means life will be interesting, but not that it will be easy. Know this: God never wastes our experiences or our pain, and best of all, OUR GOD IS A REDEEMING GOD! Hallelujah!

So true, Larry, so true!

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  • Norah said:
      So true, Larry, so true! ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Norah, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am excited that God is doi...
  • Norah said:
      Larry, Thank you for sharing such thought-provoking insights. I am, ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Kathi, Thanks for your comment. I must confess, however, that you mak...
  • Kathi said:
      God blessed you to allow you to grow up in the Bubble world. You did n...
  • amos said:
      I like this. It's good. It's just occurred to me that I don't understa...

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