The pain of the portable life & 4 ways to resist it and thrive

These days, people want everything to be portable. From phone calls to music, we’re no longer content with being geographically constrained, nor are we required to be. Portable devices have made us a portable people with a portable lifestyle. We’re no longer restricted to work in the office, we can work on the road.

Technology has released us from being chained to a desk, a building or even a city. We move often and change careers regularly. We even shop around for better insurance and better mortgages instead being loyal to one company or bank like people did only a generation ago. Culturally, we are a people on the move. But that presents a serious problem.

The pain of the portable life

Thanks to the development of portable technology and the internet, we are now accessible at any time and in any place. We don’t punch our time cards on the bundy clock and leave work at work, instead we take work home. We take work on holidays, we take work out for dinner and to the club. We worl hard and we might even play hard but we’ve forgotten how to rest. We’re always on. 

This has caused stress related illness to be at an all time high

Stress is killing us

As this infographic shows, whilst productivity may be up due to our portable culture, work related stress is wreaking havoc on our health. We’re working with smarter technology, but we’re still not working smarter – just longer and harder.

The overflow of all this spills into marriages, family life, and communities. Unhealthy people struggle greatly to have healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships lead to unhealthy communities. It’s cause and effect.

Let’s not return to 20th century

The answer is not to shun technology and disconnect from the worlds way of work and life. The system is so big that it’s impossible to do life without engaging with it; after all, if we as Christians disconnect from this system we also become disconnected from the people within it that we are called to reach, serve and minister to.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. – Jo 17:15-18

We need to find ways of utilising technology that benefit and empower us as we follow Jesus and cary the Gospel.

Yes, we’re in the world and not of it. But we’re in the world to reach it, not just survive it. So we must engage with it and not be conformed by it.

We need to know how to engage in the portable world and not just end up stressed out, burned out and unhealthy.

The portable Christian: is it an oxymoron?

While the church should always be at the forefront of creativity and technology, communicating the message of the Gospel in culturally relevant language, and through technologically relevant mediums, one thing we can’t allow is for the portable culture to infect us negatively.

There are certain aspects of this portable culture that are in direct opposition to the culture of the Kingdom, aspects we must be aware of, guard against and live in contrast to in order to thrive in life and experience the blessing of God in all we do.

Life as a plant

The Christian life was never meant to be portable. It was always meant to be planted. It’s meant to have roots and branches.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – Jo 15:1-5

The Christian life is meant to grow, flourish and increase in the ground that it is planted in.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green… 
Ps 92:12-14

But can a Christian truly be planted and yet still take full advantage of the portable culture without any ill effect? Can we be planted and portable and at the same time still remain true to both God’s Word and the Holy Spirit?

The portable plant is a potted one

The only type of plant that is portable is a pot plant.

We have a number of plants in pots around our house because, through the years of renting houses, we started wanting to be able to take the plants with us each time we moved. This is what is so desirable about the pot plant lifestyle.

Pot plants can be put anywhere, hung on hooks or brought inside for while. Then, they can be put in the back of the ute or trailer and moved to the next house. They’re extremely portable.

Pot plants are versatile and completely unrestricted in where they can go. Like the modern person who no longer has to be chained to their desk (thanks to the portable office in his/her pocket), the pot plant is not chained or locked in to any one place or location. They’re free… so it would seem.

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5 hidden dangers of the potted life

1. A pot plants’ capacity to grow is limited by the size and stability of the pot. The roots cannot grow beyond the pot and yet the height and strength of the plant is determined by the depth and strength of the roots. A pot may provide the sense of freedom, yet ultimately it is restricted from ever becoming all it could be.

2. A plant in a pot remains alone in it’s pot. No matter how close it may be to other potted plants or even those planted in the ground, their roots never connect under the surface. Their roots are trapped, without any deep intermingling, the potted plant lacks the experiential connectedness of life in the garden.

3. Pot plants may be easily moved, but that means they are easily carried away, knocked over and or broken. A broken pot immediately exposes the roots to the harshness of the sun and weather. Such exposure will kill such a plant if it’s not quickly repotted or planted. Whilst their roots cling to the pot, nothing can hinder that plant from being picked up and carried off by a stranger,

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace… (He 13:9)

4. Pot plants are self reliant and self dependant. They claim to need, and indeed only have, their own roots for strength. They are proud of their self sufficiency, thinking they are not being dependant on anyone but themselves. This might sound good but it makes the codependency of community impossible. The pot plant submits to no-one and in turn, leads no one.

5. Pot plants require human effort to be watered and fed.  Pot plants are generally placed under cover, indoors or close to houses. This means that a pot plant is in constant need of man’s irrigation to survive as they do not receive rain. Once there are no nutrients left in their soil, synthetic plant food must be added to the pot, not simply in order for it to grow, but to remain alive!

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The cedar and the palm tree: 4 keys to unpotted strength & power

The cedar & the palm tree don’t just survive, they thrive! They are permanently planted and they flourish. They are also much bigger than something a pot can produce. No towering cedar grows in a pot, they grow strong and tall by being planted in the ground.

1. They do not accept the constraints of a nomadic pot but embrace the unlimited freedom to grow & flourish by being permanently planted in the ground. They world calls this kind of commitment a ball and chain. No one wants to be tied down and restrained from being ever-portable.

Marriage today has become a portable commodity, disposable even.

Commitment is seen by the world as weakness, small, constraining and restrictive. Yet it’s anything but. Those who are going to flourish in the Kingdom of God are those who choose the freedom of being planted, freedom to grow as tall and as strong as they’re willing.

Their location may be restricted but the potential for their roots is unlimited!

The world values unlimited external opportunities, yet in gaining them they limit their internal capacity by putting a pot around their roots for the sake of portability. Oak trees know better.

2. Their roots intermingle under the surface, giving support to each other, multiplying their strength to withstand storms and stand firm through trials. By being planted together in community with those around them these trees reap the benefit of the roots around them. Heart to heart connections beneath the surface of the soil foster genuine fellowship and strength where burdens are shared and loads and carried in community. Fulfilling the law of Christ cannot be done from the confines of the independent pot plant life,

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Ga 6:2

3. They rely solely on the rain that falls from heaven to water them, dependant not on the effort of men but on the one who sends the rain. Again, this is an ironic paradigm. Some think that in adding portability to their life they are more free, but it’s actually a form of self dependant slavery that does not rely on the spirit. It’s the difference between the slavery of Egypt and the freedom of the promise land. The cedar and the palm know to rely on the rain that falls from heaven, the provision of God within the community; the place of promise,

For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it [watered by foot], like a garden of vegetables.  But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. De 11:10-12

4. They understand the principal of the seed

I. A persons potential is not limited by the size of the seed. Like the mustard seed, small beginnings don’t mean a small result, those who are planted like the cedar and the palm have no restriction on the possibility of their growth, unless the seed is planted in a pot – see Mark 4:30-32

II. The seed grows and the farmer knows not how. The farmer plants the seed and it seems as though nothing happens, at least not visibly anyway. Patience is needed. Growth is slow. Growth is a process. The farmer gets into a rhythm, a cycle, a process; he rises, works, eats, drinks and sleeps, rises, works, eats, drinks and sleeps… then bam!! Breakthrough happens! The harvest is imminent.

The seed grows downwards first, extending it’s roots so that when it breaks through the surface of the soil and begins to climb, it has strength underground to sustain it.

Growth comes to those who commit to the process and rhythm of spiritual life in a community, those who are planted in the house of the Lord, the local church. They turn up, they pray, they read, they work, they praise, they serve, they turn up, they encourage, they pray, they serve, they read, they worship… it’s called discipleship.

Then… without knowing how or why – the seed sprouts, grows, and becomes a great harvest!

He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. Mk 4:27-29

III. Soil quality makes all the difference – rocky soil makes for shallow growth, weedy soil makes for struggles and temptations that carry us away like a portable pot. People fall away for lack of roots and they are carried away because they are portable. Some see the pot as a way of guarding the quality of the soil, but in turn the soil in the pot becomes barren and nutrient deficient. What is thought to protect end up destroying. The devil is a liar, of course he would love God’s children to live like pot plants – he’ll even help you pick out a nice one.

Pot plants require added nutrients whereas trees like cedars and palms absorb all they need from the ground they are planted in – see Mark 4:2-20

Stress less. Get planted. Live your best life.

Those who are planted do not suffer the stress and pain of the portable life… no, instead they flourish! They don’t just survive… they thrive!

But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold Mk 4:20