This week, as I was reading chapter 5 in You and Me Forever, I thought it was a fitting bookend to the start of the book on eternity. Just as looking at life with an eternal perspective will shape our lives, so will remembering the reality of our future in heaven. Both of these ideas will color how we live today. On the flip side, how we live today can also betray what we really believe. For some, our problem is not that we long for heaven too much. It is that we do not long for heaven at all or we have a faulty Hollywood-inspired view of it. We have relegated it to the level of fantasy, not reality. One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes comes from his essay, "The Weight of Glory," in which he puts it this way:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Not only are we not looking for heaven, we are looking for our satisfaction in the things of this world. One of Satan's most effective attacks in America is not outright persecution (yet) but a dulling of our senses to the reality of eternity. Our problem is in building up our cushy lifestyles, we have failed to realize that there is more to come--a life that makes all these earthly dreams look like dust. We wrap ourselves in this illusory existence and completely forget that our real world is unseen.
After years of sending texts on a phone in which you scroll through the letters (remember those?), I recently got my first smartphone. It was exciting at first to set it up and marvel at all I can do with it. But a couple of weeks later, I am finding that it hasn't really changed my life all that much for the better as it claims. Temporary things will never satisfy. It is all an illusion. In our desire for convenience or ease, in our desire to save time and labor, we pursue the best, top of the line stuff, leaving little to the imagination. Why would heaven look appealing when we have it all here? As Lewis says, we are too easily pleased.
In reflecting on this chapter then, I was challenged by the Chans to re-consider how I choose to buy things. In this world, it makes sense to buy the best you can afford. I never think about buying "good enough" or used until I married my husband. I have a faulty belief that purchasing someone's unwanted things suggests I am lower class.
What I choose to spend my money on speaks loudly of my unspoken beliefs, even if the item in question is "just" a little thing. Will I invest in things that I will need to work hard to protect or maintain or will I invest it in people, the only "things" I will ever take to heaven with me? Will I try to reward myself now or will I trust that by living with less here so I can give away more, I am actually storing up eternal rewards that moth will not destroy?
I'm not saying that money itself is the root of the problem. As Paul so clearly states in 1 Timothy 6:10, it is the love of money that is the trouble…and you don't need to have a lot of it to be bitten by this bug. Even those who are poor in our economy can be afflicted. But as Paul also writes, the antidote is not to get rid of it, but to learn contentment in the right things. We really only need two things: food and clothing (v. 8). The rest is purely gravy.
Whether the Lord has blessed us with a little or a lot, we can learn to be content. If we have a little, then we can be satisfied with the limited means we may have. I can still host a big dinner party because it is not the dining room that makes the difference. What brings joy is not the square footage I possess but the love, joy and contentment that comes out of me.
If we are blessed with a lot, we can still learn to be content. As the Chans share in their video, it is possible to live with ugly brown carpet or a used car without automatic windows or door locks and be happy. There's nothing wrong with making a lot of money or trying to increase our bottom line. The question is: why?
As parents, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are earning more so we can give our kids a better life, the education they need to succeed, and so forth. I certainly have told myself that I need to work harder so my kids do not need to go without. But without what? By providing them with all their hearts desire, do I end up perpetuating Satan's lie through my well-meaning intentions? Do I do this because--and this is hard to admit--this is what I really believe will bring them happiness? Is my goal to help them fit in here or am I truly equipping them for heaven?
I think that is why the Chans' choices have fascinated me. They really live this out…and their kids along with them! I'm sure that as a high-demand speaker and best-selling author, they could definitely afford to live in a nice neighborhood and drive luxury cars. But they don't. This boggles my mind. My natural response is "Why not?"
When I fix my eyes on heaven, He helps me to find satisfaction in Him, not the things of this earth. I see an inverse correlation here. The less I remember heaven, the more I seek to satisfy myself in the temporal world around me. The less I pursue Him, the more I will pursue the stuff here on earth. We are made to worship something. If we do not worship God, we will worship something else. There is no neutral ground.
Teaching myself to find my greatest pleasure in Him--and not the "mud pies" of this life--will shape me tremendously. I confess I am still learning this. I haven't mastered it yet. As the Chans remind me in this chapter, it is a discipline. It takes work to live in--and sometimes fight against--the reality of an unseen world when the ones in our face are clamoring for attention and stealing our affections.
If there's one thing that I have been reminded of over and over, it is the fact that we are on a battlefield, not a luxury resort on vacation. But what does that look like? Hold that thought, and come join me in my next post!