Monday, February 13, 2012

The Crossroads

What is it about human nature that draws us to great challenges in books, movies and sports, but has us crying "poor me," as soon as those challenges call us out of our comfort zone? Why are we so fascinated by the great paradoxes of the Bible, but so quick to think God has abandoned us when life doesn't go all our way? Why do we so eagerly embrace the words of Jesus, "I've come so you might have life, and have it to the full," but manage to push to the recesses of our minds, "You will be hated of all men because of me?"

My wife and I are coming to a crossroads of a sorts. We will be leaving the home we've lived in for 28+ years. I've been watching the Real Estate market closely for well over a year now. How is it that this place where we have raised our children and so often welcomed our grandchildren -- won't bring a bigger price on the market? Why, at our age and with our present home debt free, should we need a $30,000 mortgage to purchase anything comparable in space and comfort?

Add to that mix -- a book. It's a relatively small book, only 230 pages. A book with a distinctly American flavour. A book that praises small churches, but is written by a Pastor who openly struggles with the dilemma of following a leader who focused most of his energy on 12 men, while he leads a 4,000 member congregation. If I'd known how much David Platt was going to mess with our minds, I might not have brought the book home. I might have hidden it before my wife started to read it too.

You see, I'm quite content with what I would call a simple life. I don't need the latest car. I don't need a bigger house. I don't need to travel the world. I don't need a 60" flat-screen TV. I confess to two hungers I never fully satisfy. I always want more bookshelves (full ones) and I always want more and larger aquariums. But even in those areas I've learned to keep the brakes on, to limit myself, to spend cautiously and slowly.

But -- The Book! It's titled "Radical -- Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream" by David Platt, ISBN 978-1601422217, published in 2010 by Multnomah. It has my wife and I playing the "What if" game.

What if -- when we sell our home -- we don't just buy something else? What if we take a month, or three months, or a year -- for some type of mission? We're not wealthy by North American standards. But by world standards we're in the top 1%. Would it really be so 'radical' to give a month or more of our lives to work among people whose weekly income is less than we would spend stopping once at a donut shop? Would it be so 'radical' to help drill a well or construct a water filter in a village where half the children die before the age of five? We are grandparents. There is a grave with the body of a little one we never got to hold. The death that impacted us so deeply happened in spite of superb health care. Is it so 'radical' to wish to change the odds, where the flip of a coin tells the probability of any new infant surviving? We shed many tears when our grandson died. Do the tears of other parents and grandparents not matter? Does it not matter that they grieve without any sense of hope, that many of them have never heard the name of Jesus?

I've been consumed by a writing project for the last three months. Sometimes it seems like I've been buried by it. A couple interruptions have yanked me out of it momentarily, but somehow left the hole open for me to fall back into again. This book has come when I didn't want another interruption. It has come when just trying to find a home we can afford has felt like more than enough of a challenge. It has come when writing has started to have little glimmers of excitement again -- not just an addiction I can't break -- so even the Real Estate market feels like an interruption.

What if our bank accounts, our investments, even our lives -- were totally at God's disposal? What if we said, "Okay, God. It's all Yours." We give lip-service to it being all His anyway. What if we actually meant it?

Will I dare? Will my wife dare -- to fully trust this God we claim to trust? We've lived our lives in the church. We know all the right language. We give of our resources and of our time. But somehow still, it seems there is a cut-off. "You can take this much of our comfort, God. But don't ask for more than that." It's more than a bit frightening to actually articulate it -- to see those words on the computer screen in front of me.

Maybe I'll write to this author who is messing in our lives. Maybe I'll accuse him of having the audacity to actually believe the Bible. Maybe I'll label him an extremist for taking Jesus at His word -- for daring to believe His call includes us, in North America, where our "poverty line" is an income 30 times what many people in the world earn.

Or maybe -- at this crossroads in our lives -- we'll find the courage to become just a bit radical ourselves -- to fully believe the Bible for ourselves -- to accept that this call just might include us too.


Dorene Meyer said...

Good post, Brian!
Speaking from experience, I'd say, "go for it!"
Currently, we are renting (we have formerly been home owners) and we are planning to live in our travel trailer full-time when we retire.
It's funny the things that "matter" to us - I still occasionally think about the antique bottle collection and oil lamps that I had before we sold our house. And a couple of antique bookshelves. And we'd had (and immensely enjoyed) acquariums all of our married years. Now, our kids have them in their homes so we enjoy them vicariously. In ten or so years, when we downsize again, yes, it will be the books that will be my greatest challenge to part with. And photographs.
But if we stop for even one minute and contemplate the billions of people world over who have none of these luxuries, it makes us feel like the rich man in the story of the rich man and lazarus. We've had "our ease" on this earth...

Peter Black said...

Thank you Brian.
This page from your present journey speaks to what all of us who would be Christ followers encounter along the way -- that the Cross beckons us to come and take it up,and bids us to bear it and go (whether across the world or the street). We encounter it again and again, and are never free from its call. Thank God, it is the way of life and peace and joy.
Brian and Dorene, I identify with you re. the books in loathing to get rid of them in the downsizing. Also, with our having been in church-owned housing and a couple of rentals for over 35 years, we too are renting now, in retirement. God has graciously provided us with good landlords and a place in which we feel much at home. (Hmm, the challenge is to be responsive if He were to come with marching orders, though.)

CBM said...

I can't even begin to share the times that God's faithfulness has seen both myself and my wife through not only difficult times, but also life threatening illness's.

Our God is a awesome God!

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