**Settle in. Maybe grab some tea. This one is longer than usual. I have a story to tell and not just a sound bite to relay.**
My boy came home from school announcing that he needed to buy a lacrosse stick. Of course, we questioned him on the fact that he doesn’t play lacrosse but it seems that all of the boys at school do, and so, he needed a stick just so he could play with them at lunchtime.
Now, here’s the thing, we’re not that family. That one that just rushes out and buys a lacrosse stick because someone deems it necessary. We don’t purchase toys for our kids, um, ever apart from birthdays or Christmas. They don’t get to choose something each time we go to Target for household necessities. They don’t get gum every trip to the grocery store. They’ve learned that our mode of operation is simplicity. The answer is no. Extras and treats and gifts are special because they’re for occasions.
I know this isn’t how much of the world works and that’s just fine! I’m not saying we’ve got this parenting thing nailed or that everyone should operate our way. Don’t hear me wrong, this is just how WE do it! Why? For a few reasons. First of all being, we spend the amount on commuting expenses that could buy our family two weeks on an exotic vacation each year. We prefer not to think about this but it’s true. Our choice of place to live and place to work makes for an expensive dynamic. Secondly, our kids all have some sort of metal apparatus on their teeth. When they ask for something right now we simply state, “Braces!” Thirdly, we’ve always done it this way. We’ve always thought it important for our kids to realize what they need and what are simply wants. We long to teach them that we live in a rich nation, a consumeristic society and it takes effort to fight against that. We want them to know that they already have more than most of the world. We want them to know that every time we see something we don’t need to give in to the compulsion to have it. We need to be self-controlled.
So, the announcement of the lacrosse stick came as a bit of a shock but to his credit, my boy did state that he still has Christmas money in the bank and he’d like to spend $20 of it on a lacrosse stick.
His reasoning was valid and he was right, he did have the money so I told him that later in the week we could go and see what we could find.
Why not today? Oh, that’s easy. We never buy things the second we think we want them. We wait. We see if a few days later we still think it’s a good idea. Then we go and check it out.
I also had a bit of an alterior motive. I wanted to go and research and be sure his friends were giving him accurate information. Turns out, like with most things, they weren’t!
Lacross sticks range from $50 – $100 dollars! Certainly not $20. I knew we were in for some drama and a bit of a fight.
Turns out, researching ahead was wise because I could put a quick call in to the hubs who works in the city where used sports equipment stores are on every other block. He checked one out and whatt’ya know? A $20 lacrosse stick.
I picked my boy up from school and he hopped in with excitement, reminding me that today was the day that we were going to go buy a lacrosse stick!
I pulled the car over knowing that this would take a face to face. Eye contact. Perhaps even a slight touch to ease the pain of waiting. I explained the real cost of the sticks at the store. His eyes fell. After 3 days of waiting to go and make his purchase his spirits were dashed. I looked that little boy in the eye, tears forming, and I told him that his daddy had done some looking though and he could pick one up for $20. The only thing it would mean is that he would have to wait until daddy got home that night to play with it.
He hummed and hawed. You could see his wheels spinning. $50 to play now. $20 to play tonight. He made the wise decision and texted his dad to go and pick up the stick.
It was the longest 4 hours of his life. He checked the clock every 17 minutes. He asked repeatedly if his calculations were right. “Dad will be home in 2 hours and 43 minutes, right Mom?” Right. And right again at 2 hours and 26 minutes and right again at 1 hour and 53 minutes and, well, you get the point.
With 47 minutes left in the countdown my phone rang. His heart leapt! Was Dad coming home early? Sadly, it was the exact opposite. Dad was going to be late. In fact, he probably wouldn’t arrive home until long after my little boy was in bed.
His eyes fell and he buried his face in his hands. His shoulders sunk and I lifted his moppy hair off of his face only to see the tears trickle their way down his cheeks.
Doesn’t our life here on earth feel just like that sometimes. We get an idea or a project or a thought on how God is leading us and we want to dive in full force? We think that he’s calling us to adopt or to foster or to volunteer in Sunday School. We think He wants us to move to a third world country or witness to our neighbours or quit our job because He has bigger things for us.
So we fill out paper work and we apply for Visas and we invite people for dinner and we hand in our resignation.
It’s like we get that phone call that Daddy’s going to be home late and our shoulders sink and the tears roll down and we wonder why? Why does he have to be home late tonight of all nights? Did we not do all the things we were supposed to do? Did we not follow where He was leading? Did we not do exactly as He asked of us?
So where’s our lacrosse stick? Where’s our baby or our new job? Where’s the yes!?
Ann Voskamp relayed a most amazing example in a talk she was giving. She spoke of how Christianity came to North America as an Enterprise. A business of sorts. The problem with this being, we are supposed to be a body or believers, not a business. She said this, “…if a body becomes a business – doesn’t it become prostitution?….What if the body has become a business so that it’s more about a body in this transaction, this prostitution of sorts, than it is about passion.”
She goes on to say, “If a body becomes a business it becomes about prostitution and if that’s true then it only gives of itself when it gets something back for itself.”
My son paid the money for the lacrosse stick and he was expecting his business transaction to be delivered in a timely manner. He gave something and he is to get something in return.
But if that’s the way we’re treating God we’ve turned our actions into something that we do, not because we’re simply drawn to Christ or long to be obedient to Him or because we’re passionately in love with Him, but rather we’ve made it a business transaction. We’ve said, “I will do this for you and this is what I expect in return.” We’re looking for a return on our investment, of sorts.
But that’s not the way Jesus ever promised us it would go. We are not to turn our worship into prostitution. The body of Christ is not a business transaction where we do something to get something.
And yet when we follow and we don’t get what we want, just like the tears on my little boys cheeks we cry, we wonder where God is, we might even shake our fist.
“Daddy was suppose to be home by now!” He said. “It’s not fair!”
And we do the same thing to our daddy in heaven. We call out that it’s not fair when we’ve put so much expense into the adoption or we’ve left the job only to find ourselves with nothing to buy groceries with or we move across the world only to find that it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be at all.
We’re looking for return on our investment.
We’re turning our christianity into a business.
We’re turning the body into prostitution.
I tucked my boy into bed that night with a certain sadness in him that was palpable. He was starting to believe it might never happen. He might never get his stick.
His daddy pulled through, though, as daddy’s do. He came home long after my littles eyes were shut and his breathing heavy and he placed that lacrosse stick right next to him in bed. He woke up to find what he was waiting so patiently for right there in his arms.
We don’t always know what God has for us or why He calls us to do certain things. But we do know that our daddy always pulls through for us. It may look different then we thought. It may cost us so much more. It may not show up right when we’re expecting it, if at all. But sometime, maybe even in the middle of the night, He will pull through for us. In ways that are so good and so right and perhaps ways that we could have never, ever imagined!
But that part isn’t up to us. We give because we love him passionately. We serve because He loves us beautifully. We obey because He is the way, the truth and the life and he is working all things together for our good.
Not to get what we want.
But to give Him what He is worthy of. Nothing more. Nothing less.
**Ann Voskamp’s talk referenced here can be found for purchase at IF: gathering