“Congratulations on your liposuction.”

No one in the department store was looking my way or they might have glimpsed my smothered laughter at overhearing the comment. I had no idea that social protocol now calls for congratulations on having cosmetic surgery. We congratulate on marriage. We congratulate on promotions. We congratulate on new babies. We congratulate graduations. Evidently, we now congratulate on liposuction.

How we celebrate says a lot about our culture, but what we celebrate says even more about our values. I don’t believe that particular congratulations was atypical, though it did catch me by surprise. We live in a world where, at times, marriage and childbearing have become inconvenient burdens valuable only as material for gossip, and plastic surgery and perfect bodies are our new valued prizes we celebrate and congratulate. It is not news to you that, for many people, money is more important than family, sex is more important than love and convenience is the idolatrous altar at which we are all guilty of worshipping. As agents of redemption in a lost world, the question I ask is not what is wrong with everyone else, but instead I ask, am I different?

I was searching for the perfect pair of jeans when I overheard the liposuction conversation today. I wasn’t going to the extreme of surgical alteration but I was probably pretty equally focused on my appearance. I left the store empty-handed but with my head full of reflection. How often do I allow my culture to dictate my values and my surroundings to determine my interests? How far do I go to conform to what everyone else says is “perfect” and what the world call’s success? If my purpose on earth is to bring glory to God, then I should be considering my choices and actions in light of eternity and be a lot less wrapped up in the temporary pursuits of this world.

My values are most clearly revealed in my everyday conversations. Am I seeking the latest gossip on the love lives of my single friends, or am I learning from the veterans of long-lasting marriages? How much time have I spent lately discussing clothing, sports or material things in comparison to the time I’ve spent discussing anything of eternal value? Am I more interested in talking about that girl at school than I am at reaching out to her in friendship and ultimately bring her to the Lord? Am I too busy with discussing the details of my life and its every continuous crisis than I am in being in touch with what’s going on in the world around me? I don’t bring God glory by constant complaining about the horrible state of our culture.

I have to make the right decisions in my every day life to be different and set apart.

I’m still looking for that perfect pair of jeans, and I imagine that lady is still looking for the perfect body. However, when we awaken in the morning, our thoughts had better not be caught up in those goals, or one day we will wake up and realize our lives are nearly over, our days are nearly done, and we have gathered ever so little to carry with us into eternity.