I remember when I attended the 21st of a good friend of mine from school about 2 years ago. I turned up and laughed during the speeches, danced during the music, and ate heaps during dinner. It was an awesome time. But I’m haunted by it. My friend, the one whose birthday it was, said “Jeremy. You made it! I’m so glad you are here, because you are a hard man to get hold of!”
I was horrified. What did he mean? Am I really? Being too busy for my friends is not what I want to be known for. But he was right.
That whole year, even before, and even now, I am juggling a lot all at once. And that year I often attended three parties on the same night to make sure I made it to each one and didn’t miss out on the fun. It was a great time, but it was darn tiring. I was motivated to move at a hundred miles an hour. But my motivation was built on the fear that I might somehow miss out on something others would get to experience, and I’d be lesser or have a less rich existence in life without those experiences. I was moving so quickly that I never stayed long enough somewhere to enjoy it, nor was my mind present enough to actually be there because I was too focused on what was coming next.
I don’t know about you, but for me the struggle of FOMO is very real. I’m anxious about what I’m missing out on. My Facebook feed tells me I’m missing this event, or that party. My Instagram feed tells me I am missing this tattoo, that adventure to a waterfall, that intrepid journey to unknown lands, or that experience of love by that cute couple always taking photos together. What are you afraid of missing out on? How anxious are you that you are not living the most significant, fulfilling, exciting life possible, just as you are?
Young adults today, more than ever before I would say, want to be a part of change in the world for the better. But we never commit to something long enough to actually see change come to the world. John Perkins, a civil rights activist from the US, argues if you want to see change, commit to something and someplace for 10 years at least. But I haven’t committed to anything for longer than 6 months or a year. And I think all of us young adults are pretty similar in that regard.
Are these fears leading you to sign up to so much “stuff” to the point you never actually get to be present somewhere for long enough to enjoy it or to make the most of it?
My girlfriend and I had dinner with the Bishop of Wellington a few months ago. He and his wife and kids have spent their lives living in radically counter cultural ways: living in Wellington with the homeless, with addicts, and extending hospitality to the broken, the lost, and the hurt in their own home. They have caught a hold of the revolution of love that Jesus brought to earth through His life, death, and resurrection.
During the dinner he told us a story about a missionary who wanted to start a monastery in the dessert tribes of a particular part of Africa. He was there for years, working tirelessly. And all the days of his life no one joined him.
A hundred years later or so someone found his journals which documented his prayers, his doubts, his struggles and confusions and his dreams. This person was so inspired by what he read, he began a monastery where he had once envisaged one and there is now an official monastic order there. That must have been a lonely time. But his efforts did not end up being empty.
What are you afraid of missing out on? Are your fears stopping you from following Jesus into the forgotten places of the empire like this man no matter what the costs?
I would argue our FOMO is built on consumerism, hyperreality, “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s born out of social media and advertising, western fallacies like “adventure equals travelling,” and the grass is always greener on the other side. It comes from a belief that we are not enough as we are, and ignores the God who shows us we are worth dying for as we are.
Jesus calls us to simplicity, to satisfaction in the small, to take our daily bread, not to store up in barns or bank accounts or property. He calls us to a Kingdom that spreads like mustard plants or yeast in bread, and faith like mustard seeds. He calls us to a Kingdom that spreads through love and because of love, not through force or because of anxiety. He calls us to be present with those we encounter no matter if they smell bad, have a job, are a lawyer, or a single drug addicted mom. He draws us to be present in the beautiful adventure of the mundane stuff of life like dishes, and walking the dog, and bussing to work. He draws us spiritually to himself through a downward mobility, for he is not a God in the clouds but the God who is with us. He doesn’t call us to the big and flashy but to the small things done with great love.
Shake the dust of western consumerism and the western fallacies that come with it. And when people don’t accept you for the irresistible revolution you’re a part of, shake the dust some more. You are not missing out on anything, but if we live in FOMO, we will miss out on the revolution of love Jesus is leading that calls us to who is in front of us. Take up your cross, lay down your stuff and shake the dust.
The Grace Collective exists to talk about issues facing young adults, and this issue of FOMO, though not exclusive to Young Adults, affects us hugely. And we need to start addressing it. So we would like to invite you to a round table discussion on Fear of Missing Out, how that affects our fear of commitment to radical and costly Gospel of Jesus, and how we can learn to trust that God’s love for us is sufficient and we don’t need to gain anything else to live the significant and purposeful life we so desire and need.
7:30PM, Wednesday 21st of September, @St Aidans Remuera (5 Ascot Ave)
Jeremy Harris is a voluntary youth leader, student and the Grace Collective coordinator. He is passionate about his community and seeing young adults discussing faith and life. Jeremy runs the GC, MCs, speaks and organises the team to make the events happen! You can get a hold of Jeremy at JHarris@auckanglican.org.nz.