One of my biggest weaknesses is my love of earthly things. Not necessarily materials, but things like songs or fictional worlds or celebrities or even just the feeling of fall. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Therefore, recently, I’ve been hyperaware of my earthly obsessions. I have to work to make sure God remains the center of my life when all of these things are tugging me away from Him.
Oddly enough, over the past few weeks, God has been talking to me about this.
A few weeks ago I went on a leadership retreat with my campus ministries department. It was your typical “spend 2 hours in silence and talk to God” retreat where we stayed in bunk beds and ate cafeteria food and made s’mores. (Also, star tripping was very popular at this retreat. Look it up if you haven’t heard of it.) Going into it, I didn’t really have anything pressing on my mind. I wasn’t dealing with any tragedies or traumas in my life other than the usual stress of school and work, so I went in with an open mind. During our first session, I opened my bible and heard God’s voice. The idea of valuing earthly things has been so heavy on my heart recently, and somehow God knew exactly what to say.
God spoke to me through Colossians. It was a book I’d never considered reading before because it seems to be a lesser known of the letters. No one really talks about it. I learned, though, as soon as I began to read, that a huge part of this small book talks about earthly desires. I felt like God had picked out that passage specifically for me to find, and it really made me stop and think about how I approach my earthly treasures.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Colossians 3:2-5
Although Paul continues to talk about these “earthly things” (anger, rage, filthy language, etc.), I read this passage more about my earthly obsessions like Taylor Swift or Harry Potter or what-have-you. We need to recognize that even though earth was made for us, “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) And it thrills me to know that heaven will be even better than the beauty I find on earth. Imagine how beautiful it will be if it’s greater than Yellowstone National Park! Imagine the music if it’s more lovely than Ryan Adams’ 1989! I could go on and on, but I’ll save you the time. Heaven is going to be so much grander than earth, and yet, we are still stuck on earth for the time being.
There’s a second part to this story.
If you continue reading that chapter in Colossians, you’ll reach this verse: “Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11). I recognize that God is the center of my life. I recognize that these earthly things I love won’t go with me to heaven, and that heaven is even greater than the life I lead on earth, but this verse made me pause. If Christ is in all, then why are earthly things so bad? I realized that it isn’t necessarily the things themselves that are “bad.” It’s more about mindset – the way you approach and view these earthly things.
A couple Fridays ago, September 25th, I spontaneously bought a ticket to see Taylor Swift…for the second time this year. (I say spontaneously because I only bought the ticket an hour before the show.) When I went to the concert, I spent the whole time enjoying myself and dancing like a crazy person. About halfway through the concert, I had this beautiful epiphany: what if you can enjoy earthly things and God at the same time? And so, that is how I ended up lifting my hands during a Taylor Swift concert (I think it was during the Enchanted/Wildest Dreams mashup) and worshiping our amazing Father. I see God through so many things: the books I read, the music I dance to, the movies I consume. Why can’t I acknowledge His goodness and power through those things? We do it with worship music and the bible all the time.
Now, I recognize that some things might not fit in with this idea, but it’s an idea that works for me on most occasions. I still struggle with loving my earthly things a little too much. I try to not let them control my life and my spirit, but whenever they start to get a little overwhelming, I remind myself of a few things. First, God forgives. His grace will cover me even if I put Taylor Swift tickets over, say, giving to the poor or praying to God. Second, these things all came from God somehow. God put Taylor Swift on this earth, and He did so for a reason. No matter what anyone else says, I can see God’s goodness through Taylor, and I can see His goodness through so many other things as well. Thirdly, and finally, God loves me. He loves me enough to forgive me, but He also loves me enough to give me all these beautiful things. He loves me enough to not allow me to grow complacent in idolizing earthly things. He moves me past that, convicting me of my earthly sin and inspiring me to worship Him above all. And even more so, He loves me enough to invite me into His eternal home. At the end of the day, I remind myself that Heaven is so much greater than Earth.
I have since realized that I worship God in many ways and places. True worship nights are incredible, but have you ever worshipped God at a Paramore concert? Have you ever worshipped God in the comfort of your own bed while reading stories of a fictional character who reminds you of yourself? God is everywhere, so why shouldn’t we worship Him anywhere we want?
-Jenna Kilpinen // @jennaclarek