“Wonder and perish,” the line says. Reading the passage in my timeworn Bible, it entered my head like this:
Bla, bla, bla, WONDER AND PERISH, bla, bla, bla…
Did the highlighter fairy flutter some fluorescence on that line in the night? But it was all black and white, text on paper, no lairy yellow or green.
My eyes were drawn to those words because God was showing me something. That’s what he does. Dreams, whispers, a friend’s timely visit, the balm of nature – and words that leap from the page, grab hold of the eyeballs and brand themselves on the brain.
“Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you,” Acts 13:41 flared at me.
Life is short and fragile.
Death is undiscerning and impatient.
What do we do with this knowledge? Christian or atheist, we agree on these points surely, it’s what we do with the information that sees us travel different paths. We all grapple with the, “What’s this all about?” question.
Why do we button up shirts that will only be taken off again; spoon food into the mouth only for it to start a journey to exit the body again; work tirelessly to fill a bank account only to empty it; accumulate house, car, cyclonic technology bagless vacuum cleaner and one of those things that blows leaves into piles only to throw it out or downsize or leave it for the kids to donate to charity?
Perhaps it’s an innate fear of missing out on the richness of life that propels us into those places. We don’t want to miss out on the lush wonder of eating delectable food and experiencing great health, of synergies in relationship with the people around us, of success with its thrills and perks and so on.
Clinical psychologists tell me that this phenomenon has a hastag: #FOMO.
Fear of missing out.
The fifth annual National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey released last week revealed that more than half of teens felt they were “missing out” on the quasi-perfect lives of their counterparts – as detailed on social media. Survey spokesperson and clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller said teens who were heavy social media users reported higher levels of #FOMO.
“They report fearing their friends were having more rewarding experiences than them (54 per cent), being worried when they find out their friends are having fun without them (60 per cent), and being bothered when they miss out on a planned get together (63 per cent),” he said.
But isn’t life one great big web of #FOMOs?
What this study unearthed is something that has surely been with us since day dot and just manifests differently across different ages and generations.
Fear of missing out on a lollypop becomes a party becomes a date with that tall-dark-and-handsome becomes filling the spare bedrooms with children becomes hanging out with your DINK friends (double income no kids) becomes Pacific holidays, European cars and dry-clean only clothes.
Who wants to miss out?
All these minor fears congregate to frame a larger fear: Do they matter?
We wonder at it, even if only in the secret places where no one can see the confidence peeled off, the self-assuredness pared back.
“Wonder and perish,” the verse says, wonder and miss out.
What if there is a God who loves us so much that he sent his only son down to grimy earth where grimy humans could smash nails into his hands and hang him on a cross for dead? What if that God did it to unlock the shackles of religiosity and allow us access into an eternity of beauty – that mysterious concept we call heaven?
Wonder and perish. Choose Jesus and live.
The verses prior to the one that glowed in my Bible go like this:
“I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
Nothing stands between us and God, except our refusal of him.
I have a new hashtag for you.
With Jesus there’s #NOFOMO.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday November 17, 2015.