Sunday, October 17, 2010

An Unburdened Life

This time last week Libby and I were in North Myrtle Beach at a vacation resort promo. This was the “price” for an expense-paid three nights at a beach-front resort –– something Libby needed badly after months of audit stress, and this was a way for us to afford it.

We had, of course, intended to hear graciously the spiel, give a quick no and get out of there. What actually happened is that our “agent” was not a regular salesman, but was a member advocate working a Sunday in order to take a week-day off with his family (which means he was not working for a commission sale). On top of that, he was a believer who was impressed with our journey and what we are attempting to do in ministry. A “two-hour presentation” turned into a real exchange of questions and projections. The result was an offer that was unbelievable and seemingly feasible. We thought of being able to take our kids and grandkids to the beach for a week each year, and having something with stable value. We agreed to try it!

One thing such presentations do is give a couple almost no time to think and confer with one another. Libby and I were apprised of all the positives (and with several additions to our package which had to be approved by administration) there were many. Yet when we got back to our rooms at the resort, the reality of what we had entered began to hit. I re-read the contract again and began to project with Libby what this truly meant for us, both financially and in terms of staying on top of schedules, “points,” and all the other details of being an “owner” of a resort property.

Suddenly we began to feel smothered, as if “the world” was going to suffocate us. I knew there is a small window to cancel a property contract, and we knew this needed to be done first thing the next day. Libby hardly slept, and I only did by taking something to “help.”

Still, it seemed that the agent had, indeed, offered us something incredible. It was clear he wanted to make something nice possible for two people whose life is Christian ministry. Even as the next day began and I prepared to return to the promotion center, I felt as if we were ungratefully rejecting a gracious gift. What to do?

Guidance was in the little book of spiritual readings Libby and I use each day. Introducing the Scriptures were these words:

We are a pilgrim people, journeying through the varied landscapes of life, on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us travel light, unburdened by useless baggage –– material or spiritual –– and sing [a] pilgrim psalm to the God who has given us such a glorious goal in life.

And so it was clear: for us, we must stay “unburdened.”

It is hard to live this way in our American society. First, there is the reality of excess that marks our culture. We live so far “beyond” most of the rest of the world, but because we live in the midst of it and because the nature of the “flesh” is indulgence, it can be hard for us to see it. Beyond that, some Christians are called to model a level of commitment that, to a “normal” person, appears austere and ridiculous (but how else can the life of Jesus be modeled, who said to his disciples “Take up your cross and follow me.”).

I do not want to say that no Christian should own a vacation property. It can be a good and wonderful thing for Christians to be able to have periods of retreat (as long as we all remember that we are never to take a vacation from seeking God and walking in the Spirit).

How this applies –– and looks –– to each follower of Jesus will have individual variety. Libby and I are seeing more and more clearly the way it is to look in our life. We welcome times away, but the Lord needs to give us each one; we cannot take a step to “guarantee” those times and we cannot become more encumbered.

When I talked to the agent again the next day he was more than gracious in hearing of our decision (just as gracious as he had been in his presentation). He made a call to initiate the cancellation (and said the office was fine with it since they weren’t making any money off what he had offered us anyway –– a confirmation of the agent’s goodness toward us).

At least two things have resulted from this incident. First, Libby and I see more clearly the life to which the Lord is calling us. Second, we are staying in touch with the agent; it seems the Lord has given us a new friend in the Body.

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