The Trap of Keeping Up

Posted on March 20, 2014

After turning into my subdivision, you find yourself on a long boulevard lined with trees, street-lamps, and landscaping. It’s as if you just turned into Central Park. Driving for a bit brings you to the first stop sign. From this point on, everything changes.

Which way you turn could say something about you. The boulevard is actually the entrance to two different subdivisions, the one I live in and a second one if you continue to drive through mine. My subdivision is broken into a couple of different sections, and depending on which one you live in, it could say something about you.

With each of the stop signs you come to on the boulevard, the houses get a little more expensive, the yards a little bigger, the grass a little greener, and eventually, you leave my subdivision altogether. My house is to the right of that first stop sign.

We have lived in our new house for four months now. I have never been so close to so much affluence. I cannot remember a time when I have felt the slow pull of the need to keep up. Before moving to this part of Indianapolis, we lived in a small old house, in “Old Towne” of a small town 30mins north of the city. I never found myself comparing our stuff to my neighbors, I know I did but it was more about which vegetables we were growing, or what color we would paint our house, not the size of the houses or the cars in the driveways.

Around these parts, subdivisions carry with them certain stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations. The sign for my subdivision has two names on it, my subdivision and the fancier one right below it. The one you drive through mine to get to. Everyday I am reminded that I don’t live in the fancier one. Perhaps it’s my competitive nature and obviously it’s my broken human nature but I can certainly sense the ‘trap of keeping up.’

The trap convinces us that what we have isn’t enough. Even when what we have should measure up. Often times I take our kids to daycare, which means more often than not, I am driving our new minivan. When I say new, I mean we bought it with 4 miles on it. 4. The van is fantastic. As far as vans go, it’s one that should keep up and yet, that’s not how the trap of keeping up works. When I come to that now infamous stop sign I told you about before, often times I come face-to-face with giant SUVs, shiny luxury cars, and the upgraded model of my van!

This is what makes the grip of this trap so deadly. The very idea of “keeping up” is a delusion. It is misguided attempts at defining self and self-worth. It is impossible to actually keep up. There will always be someone with more, bigger, shinier…the trap fools us into thinking this somehow equals better, happier, more secure, and if somehow we fall short of this, we are less or have failed.

It. Does. Not.

This is the lie the ‘trap of keeping up’ tells us to hold us in its grip. This is one of the messages the marketplace uses to convinces us we need to buy its products. There must be a better way. There is a better way. The Church MUST set a better example. We as Christians MUST live this better way, not simply for ourselves but for our neighbors as well. The way Jesus calls us to experience life fully through loving God, serving others, and dying to self, this is freedom. This is the way we escape the ‘trap of keeping up.’ Perhaps the only way.