Friday, June 03, 2005

OASIS HALLUCINATION

So, I went away with our staff (like everyone: part time facilities guy, receptionists, pastors, you name it and their spouses) for the first time on their annual retreat to the "desert". My wife and I left a day early and spent some time together and then arrived at what can only be accurately described as a "oasis hallucination too good to be true". We drove at night and arrived late to what was a gated retreat of water, grass, palms, and luxury surrounded by miles and miles of desolate sand, wind and utter nothing like I've never experienced before.



At the Westin Resort I had poolside meals, ate like kings and queens, met in air conditioned rooms, and went for late night walks in 80 degree star filled skies with my bride of almost 11 years. It was amazing!!! I was truly blessed. My marriage was blessed. Wow. What a four days.

The ironic thing was we started out the "official staff meeting portion" of the retreat with a verse from Mark 6. This is how the passage reads in the New Living Translation. It's context is right after the disciples have served long and hard in a ministry that Jesus sent them out to do and then receive word that Jesus' cousin John the Baptist has been brutally beheaded. Mark records it this way:

"The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and what they had taught. Then Jesus said, Lets get away from the crowds for a while and rest.” There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn'’t even have time to eat. They left by boat for a quieter spot."

Here's the irony... in the text- they never make it there- to a replenishing place. Jesus and his disciples head to what the King James translates as a "desert place" and many others translate a solitary place for rest, encouragement, food, and replenishment of their souls. They are however met by a crowd. Instead of eating and relaxing and deepening friendships just the 13 of them... they find thousands wanting to be healed and fed by them. The disciples complain. Jesus rebukes them and has compassion on the hurting around him. It made me feel a few things:

1. OVERWHELMED. I was overwhelmed by the luxury that surrounded me like I had never experienced before. I mean my wife forgot her tooth brush and they delivered one in a terrycloth envelope to our door. Somehow- I don't think this is what the disciples dessert location looked like- even without the crowd.

2. QUESTIONING. Why me? If even the disciples didn't experience this as they desired with Jesus, should I? Why not others? How many today are never going to experience this? I feel guilty sometimes with the blessings I received. I know that some live nicer and are "more blessed". I know that others still deserve more. I live 45 minutes from a country where the drinking water is not contaminated. Who decided which side of the border I would be born in? Why does it matter?

3. CONFLICTED. Thank you vs. expectant. I wrestle with staying appreciative what I have without expectant of blessings like this to be the "norm". I hope I never stop wrestling with that. It's easy to be judgmental too- when it's all relative. Some people spend $400 on an ipod. Some spend it on a weekend in a lush resort. Some spend it on a bike, some on a car payment, some on gifts, some on diapers, some on books for school, some on ..... you name it. Who is to say one is God honoring and one is not? I know that living like this for 4 days is not unholy. It's also not my goal in life. As I reflect back on this experience, I'm striving to keep those two thoughts from causing internal bleeding as they wage war inside me to remain thankful without the baggage of materialistic lusts. For example: Like I really want a fountain now. They are beautiful and I have two perfect places at my house for them. Is that ungodly? I guess yes if it consumes me. I guess no if... I don't know. I'm just not prepared to tell everyone on the planet that I have the will of God for material things nailed down and I know what kind of car Jesus would drive.

So... in the mean time... I'll just keep wrestling with all three and ask the Holy Spirit to give me a peace and understanding about his will. I don't want to live with guilt in the freedom I have in Jesus. I also don't want to use my freedoms to indulge my sinful nature and lusts of the flesh.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Dear God, may that always be true of me.

3 comments:

christina 11:14 PM  

very curious this whole freedom without guilt thing... sounds like what we talked about today. thankd for being a blessing... once i start struggling you can go ahead and kick me in the butt... i'll do the same for you! blessings.. and i have a blog of my own. forgot to tell you this morning. yay!

brian c. berry 12:19 AM  

thanks Buch. I will. But at least for me, the struggle means I'm healthy. In my case, please kick me when I stop struggling with what is right and wrong. I think if I ever stop I'm probably really messed up.

Sweet on the blog thing. I'm finding it's a cool way to stay connected with what's going on in friends I don't get the joy of daily talking to. I shall enjoy the chance to do the same with you.

christina 5:59 PM  

hey dog... i didn't read my comment before i posted it, cause that's what i meant. If i ever STOP struggling then kick me. silly me..

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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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