Sometimes I forget that a little back story might be in order. I forget that you don’t all live in my city and we don’t have coffee at our regular place each week. Wouldn’t that be so great, though? I forget that I haven’t kept you caught up on all the details of my life and for that, you can thank me. Believe me, you don’t want to get me started on all of the details.
I told you the other day about how my husband and I were in Vegas. Of course, as far as you know we went to play the high roller tables and get sloshed while walking the streets with our gigantic margaritas.
I’d like to think you know me just a little bit better than that, though, even though you may lack the knowledge of how to order my coffee for me at Starbucks.
The trip was a last minute event in our life where my husband was asked to go and do a little presentation on the latest movie he worked on. There was a huge broadcasting conference happening in Vegas where apparently a bazillion people in the film, radio, tv industry etc. go to check out new gear and the latest programs, make schmoozy business deals and meet the guy from Scandal.
I went because the hotel was paid for, my hubs flight was paid for and there was this little thing for him called food allowance! As it turns out, flights from where I live to the city of Las Vegas cost less than our families produce budget for the week so we decided we’d just skip the greens and I’d tag along!
Of course, I didn’t expect to be confronted with all these feelings when I was there. I was thinking no cooking and cleaning for 5 days and many consecutive hours with the man I normally see extremely little of mid-week!
Turns out, I’m not a great vacationer. I’d like some tips on how to do it better next time because apparently my mind works overtime in all situations every second of the day and I don’t know how to just do the relax and live it up sort of thing. Instead, I wrestled with Jesus about this place and then instinctively started putting up barriers around my heart in order to be able to enjoy the time with my husband.
Does your heart ever do this? Simply try to block out all that’s penetrating it in order to just live happy clappy like?
It’s not my normal mode. This is probably why it concerned me. My normal mode would be slightly intense and overthinky and feeling all the brokenness of the world and then following that up with immense gratitude and thankfulness for one certain, Jesus.
But what I wanted on this vacation was cheap happiness. I wanted light and airy and yes, pool boy, you may set up my lounger for me.
So, I started construction around my heart. I grabbed the hammer and nails and put up a shoddy gate to keep out the feelings of what was going on around me. I started laying the bricks of ignorance and mudding it up with disregard. I papered up the windows with obliviousness and locked all the doors with a shrug and a smile.
It seemed fine for awhile. Like this is what I had to do to just enjoy myself. That turning a blind eye was the right way to go about this if I was going to accomplish what I came here for and what I came here for was rest and time with my guy.
But sometimes we do silly things when we’re on vacation, my hubs and I. Especially ridiculous things when we’re trying to just have fun. We pull these little stunts like leaving the tourist playground and heading into the places where the people who live here actually hang out. Not always the smartest move when your focus for the last few days has been constructing a bomb shelter around your heart rendering it untouchable.
It only took two blocks, maybe three, before we were outside of the area known as Las Vegas in all of the travel brochures. It only took 15 minutes of walking in the direction opposite all of the lights and water shows and gaudy extravagance. It only took this short amount of time to know that those walls, they were about to crash.
Because 2 blocks off of the strip where people spend a fortune on dinner (check) and gamble away their money for sport (oops, missed that one) there is utter poverty. There are run down apartment buildings with windows that are patched and boarded up. There are no mercedes cruising these streets but dented up pontiacs with windows that can no longer be rolled up. There are elderly walking so slowly and checking each garbage can for empty bottles to help make ends meet. There are police cars circling the gas station where a group of twenty somethings are hanging out, seemingly up to no good.
I’m suddenly very aware of the fact that I’m wearing heels and I feel grossly out of place. Like a tourist who belongs over there, by the neon, and who made her way over here because she wanted to cast apathetic eyes on the rest of the town. And those walls, well, they started to crumble at the weight of what I saw when I looked right (flashing lights and towering hotels) and how that contrasted with what I saw when I looked left. The worlds couldn’t have been more different and it was only 2 blocks.
It was in this place that I realized I had constructed the walls and that a holed up heart is not how I want to live my life. If I had to ignore poverty and brokenness in order to have fun, then fun wasn’t what I wanted.
God didn’t call me to follow him sometimes and ignore the people hurting in this world at other times for the sake of my own pleasure. He didn’t tell me to pick up my cross and follow him until I’m kind of tired and then I can put it down for awhile to refresh. No, He told me it was going to cost me. That it was going to cost us. That my heart was going to be infected by His love and that love would long to pour out for others and that seeing hurt was going to hurt me and being amidst poverty was going to take its toll and bring about big questions.
I prayed that the barriers would be taken down because this is where my heart loves to be. This is where I find peace and joy, not by the comforts of the pool (though that was awfully nice), but amongst people, His people. This is where I cry out to Him and offer prayers of intercession for the hurting and where I feel helpless but alive.
I get zero rush from pushing the button on the slot machine but I felt an incredible rush of gratitude and praise and love for my Saviour when I walked those dismal sidewalks. It’s here that I realize that there is nothing I can do except love, offer what I have and trust that God has this world in his very capable hands.
It’s here that I see Jesus, in me and in this world and working to accomplish what He will.
I’m so thankful that he showed us how worlds apart this city is because it means I’ve come back from vacation with more than a tan and some well rested eyes. It means I have reason to pray for this city, this people, and the faces I remember from the sidewalk.
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