“FOMO” is a pretty common concept in our culture these days. The “fear of missing out” is strong, especially during a season flush with opportunities to celebrate, enjoy, even indulge. The one-two punch of Christmas and New Years can have a dramatic effect on our wallets and our waistlines, and yet, we may still feel like we missed out on some treat or trinket along the way. “I mean, who really just takes ONE bite of their (new) favorite Christmas cookie…and throws out the rest?” Or “Who in their right mind could possibly resist buying just ONE more little toy, for the opportunity to watch a child’s/grandchild’s eyes brighten with delight? The cost is insignificant compared to that feeling!”    

So we eat the whole cookie, before finding a new favorite. We buy the toy and are surprised how quickly that twinkle of delight dissolves from the child’s face. Did we miss out on something? Was it worth the cost? We’ll never know. Then again, we won’t wait to find out. On to the next thing!

While the concept of FOMO, developed by Harvard MBA Patrick J. McGinnis, was originally aimed at companies that overreach in their desire to capture a part of their market, it certainly developed a life of its own in popular culture. FOMO has been used to justify any kind of consumerism or hedonism imaginable. Similar to YOLO (“you only live once”) in its sentiment, the fear of missing out on life, REAL life (whatever that looks like) drives us to consume, consume, consume, both goods and experiences.

And where do we find ourselves, at the end of this way of thinking, believing, and behaving? Some have put it this way: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” It’s a pretty bleak outlook on life, and pretty closely echoes the nihilism that seems to echo throughout most of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon had access to all the goods and experiences of his day, and he found it all to be “futile, a pursuit of the wind” (1:14, CSB). And the truth is, if we’re just looking for our next material “fix” with which to satisfy our cravings, our lives will be quite meaningless, indeed.

But you and I know that that is NOT the life for which the Father created us! It’s not the life that Jesus died for…He died not so that we could carry on in meaninglessness, but could pursue the meaning of following Him, imitating Him in loving others like He did. That life, the full, abundant life that God desires for us (and that we desire deep down inside, even if we’re unwilling to admit it) is living in complete and full harmony with the Spirit of Jesus in us. It’s not a life of “stuff” or “me.” It’s a life of relationships, an everyday investment in connections that are begun here in time and continue on into eternity. Now THAT’s meaningful! Something that never dies! 

It turns out that if we’re feeling like we’re missing out on something good, the answer is probably that there’s a relationship in our life that needs more intentionality and focus. So that we don’t miss out on the fullness of being human, even in a broken world, Jesus shows us the way by His pattern of life. He has a strong relationship with His Father, and makes Him a priority. He invests the fullness of His life in a close group of followers, His disciples, to whom He gives a fuller picture of the Kingdom as they journey each day together. And He makes Himself accessible to the community at large. He engages in three key relationships: with His Father, with His disciples, and anyone who was looking for Him.

If we’re observant of Jesus’ patterns and intentional about following Him, then our treasured relationships will follow a similar template. We’ll spend time with God. We’ll invest in the lives of people who know Jesus and follow Him. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ll be on the lookout for people to whom God is sending us, people who don’t yet know how much Jesus loves them. By investing in these three key relationships, we’ll be following the two Great Commandments Jesus gave us: love God, love people.

Many people search despairingly for a life devoid of FOMO, when what they’re looking for can genuinely be found in the patterns of intentional relationships that Jesus demonstrated in His own life. I can tell you from personal experience that in the moments when I feel least fulfilled in life, one of these key relationships has faded into the background. I’m guessing you’re not much different from me. But the great thing about relationships is that by God’s grace, and through the power of Jesus’ resurrection, they’re eternal, begun in time, going on forever. The Spirit perpetually mends, renews, and grows these relationships. He’s even capable of placing people in our paths to whom God is sending us, to love like He does. My prayer for us all in 2020 is that we have eyes to see God working in the world, strengthening old relationships and creating new, and that He inspires and encourages us to join Him where He’s already working.

Adventure is out there!  Pastor Aaron

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for more information on Joining Jesus…a journey we’ll take together during Lent 2020.