“We have a frenzied desire, an infinite eagerness, to pursue wealth and honor, intrigue for power, accumulate riches, and collect all those frivolities which seem conducive to luxury and splendor. On the other hand we have a remarkable dread, a remarkable hatred of poverty, mean birth, and a humble condition, and feel the strongest desire to guard against them. Hence, in regard to those who frame their life after their own counsel, we see how restless they are in mind, how many plans they try, to what fatigues they submit, in order that they may gain what avarice or ambition desires, or, on the other hand, escape poverty and meanness. To avoid similar entanglements, the course which Christian men must follow is this: first, they must not long for, or hope for, or think of any kind of prosperity apart from the blessing of God; on it they must cast themselves, and there safely and confidently recline.” -Jon Calvin
In the bustle of the morning- kids waking up less than happy, breakfast half-eaten inside and half-eaten outside, the table still dirty from yesterday’s dinner, and a protein shake needed after a stress run- I asked Bobby how he woke up feeling.
Normally, “feeling” would imply how his stomach was feeling. If he was feeling healthy and good, or bloated and uncomfortable. But “feeling” this morning needed no context.
“So, you want to know the flavor of the day?” Bobby said in his reoccurring serious-but-enthused tone. “I woke up doubting if we are throwing away God’s blessings. But then when I started reading the Bible, and something from John Calvin, it seemed as obvious as before.”
He ran downstairs to grab the Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin (quoted at the beginning of this post), as I grabbed Lois hoping to kill too birds with one stone: listening to Bobby spill his heart out while also effectively feeding our third babe [insert happy emoji here].
The conversation loomed the question that I think we both have always sought to answer:
Is this life best stewarding Bobby and Sarah?
We have it made here in Papillion. We could call our life, our Papillion paradise. Let me just tell you, how paradisey it gets:
Both of our parents are 20 minutes away, and on top of that we actually like- no LOVE both of our parents and their involvement in our lives. They babysit for us at the drop of a hat, come over for dinner, invite us over for dinner, have family get-togethers and birthdays, and vacation regularly together. They are all believers and love to support us in all our ministry endeavors and help us in anyway we might need so we can serve our church.
Which brings us to the next portion of our paradise: Overland Hills Church. Everyone who becomes part of our church knows that we have the most excellent church. One in which people love us, and love God, and love the Bible. The people are mature, encouraging, challenging, talented, genuine, and like-minded. People who go to our church claim that what we have is a rarity, “There are no churches like OHC.” Bobby has a job at this absolutely wonderful church, and not only does he “have a job,” but reading the Bible, being stirred up as a person and minister, and teaching the Bible IS his job. He has flexible hours and can come home whenever he needs to. If he texted our senior pastor, “Hey, I need to take the week off with to spend time with my family, is that okay?” His boss would give a hearty “Yes, your family is #1.” I am involved in women’s ministry- heavily involved actually- apart of the women’s ministry team AND teaching Bible study AND all at the same time and loved and cherished and noticed by all the great women who attend. I am also part of the children’s ministry team in which I can use my Elementary Ed degree for kingdom purposes in our youth. Both Bobby and are are apart of creative communications, care group, and other forms of just organic church friendship life. I wouldn’t call us a “program-centered” church however, because the people at our church are real and treat us real. We have real friends, real mentors, real people who give us some real lessons when we really need it.
We have an incredible house, that we have spent the past 2 years making our “dream” home. Granite countertops, new fresh patio with large rocks framing the fire pit and chairs, hipster bluetooth fans and fixtures, leather couch, name-brand appliances, open-concept layout perfect for hosting, ranch-style with a big basement for playing, small enough to clean in a day but big enough to feel comfortable, a lush backyard with a new treehouse and slide for the kids, 3 minute walking distance to a great playground and grassy park, quiet and nice neighbors, and in the neighborhood of our God-fearing church.
And if that wasn’t enough, I get to stay home with our three lovely and healthy kids, and we have more money than we know what to do with. Bobby attempts to exercise “his spending muscle,” and I just bought $20 colored pencils for my $200 Bibles, and we will still probably be behind on our monthly budget. We really do try to give our money away, but here in Papillion, we can’t seem to see very many money needs around. So somehow, in some way or another, we always make more than we spend, and we don’t exactly know how. We aren’t big spenders, but in general, if we want something, we can buy it, and nothing hurts.
So here’s the question Bobby and I are wrestling with: Is throwing this all away disgracing God’s gifts and blessing? Or is God truly calling us to throw it all away for the sake of gaining more of him?
Bobby grabbed his backpack, kissed the kids, and opened the garage door to head to work. “Sometimes I just feel so trapped by it (our Papillion paradise), that I can’t even steward it.”
Is our Papillion paradise, our little bubbled safe sanctuary, what God has intended for our whole lives? Did he give it to us so we can keep it forever? Is the Christian life all about receiving and maintaining as much of God’s gifts and blessings as humanly possible?
Or can God give you something so so so good, and then ask you to give it away? Can God give you truly pure good gifts, then show you that deep down, you’re starting to become trapped by them? Right now, we would answer, “yes.” Maybe we are idiots. Maybe we are ungrateful, discontent, bad stewards of God’s gifts. But, just like the rich young ruler, maybe Jesus is saying this to us,
“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
If that truly is the message Jesus is telling us to do right now, how do we want to respond? “But God, look at all you gave us!” Or, “That’s unfair, giving us the American dream and then telling us to forsake it?” Or, “But now I’m going to feel guilty and foolish that I threw away your gifts.” Or even worse, are we going to respond like the rich young ruler did, “disheartened by the saying, [he went] away sorrowful.”
If Jesus is telling us, smack dab in our Papillion paradise: You lack something, I want you to give it up. But I’m going to replace it with something much more wonderful, much more permanent: treasures in heaven WITH a direct path to me. I want to greet Jesus’s calling with a hearty yes, and go toward him rejoicing, never looking back.
So, today’s flavor? Pistachio Ice Cream. Because I’ve never actually tried pistachio ice cream, and it’s green, and does not sound very good at all. But I really love pistachios. And I love ice cream. And green is a cool color, and makes me think of adventure. So what could be bad about pistachio ice cream!? NOT trying it sounds more worse than going for it.
So, let’s go for it!