"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
The kingdom sounds like a mighty fine gift, but Scripture says that the majority of people do not care to possess it. What do you picture when you picture the kingdom? A glittering palace, a dress like Elsa's in Frozen, servants who bring you breakfast in bed, an invisible aura of peace. Why not seek a kingdom like this? Because this is not the type of kingdom that the Father is giving.
This year, God has had me once again at a fork in the road. The fork is actually more like a city where I have made my home for a year. I sleep and work and discover little nooks and crannies I love here, but it's become pretty clear that this comfortable abode is just a stopping place along the journey. I feel a bit like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress at one of his many stops along the road to the Celestial City. Perhaps I am leaving the Palace Beautiful and on my way to the Valley of Despair. It's impossible to know exactly what lies ahead, but I have a choice to make. I can settle here in this comfortable in-between. I can try to find that glamorous kingdom of wealth and ease. Or I can take the road that leads to the Father's kingdom. How do I find it? Where do I start?
"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail." Luke 12:33
Something about this command makes me wonder if I will have pretty clothes to wear on this journey. Surely, Jesus did not mean to sell everything. My books are noble treasures. My curling iron is really a necessity. I have a healthy love for guacamole and french fries. Don't question what I have chosen to purchase and treasure. I'm no diva. I look out for the people I love.
So, God, if you could just give me the kingdom and let me keep this little hoard of treasures, no one will get hurt. I'll be very agreeable on this pleasant journey.
But, Jesus has found me packing, and the truth is becoming clear. Not everything is fitting like I thought it would. He says it's time to go. The kingdom is waiting not far from here. But I can't lift my suitcase, and there's still a box of movies and snacks in case I get bored in this kingdom. I gaze at the box and back at Jesus. I stall. Let's have a cup of coffee before we go. "So tell me more about this kingdom," I say to Jesus over my coffee.
And he tells a story, a few actually, because Jesus is patient. He tells me of people who have seen visions of Him, but believing in him could mean their death. They open their arms to the reality of persecution because they have experienced an intimate, freeing relationship unlike any before. He tells me of children, abandoned at birth, who are drawn into the arms of a selfless people who see beauty and value even through the defects. He tells me of sick, soul-wounded people who have found a reason to smile again, although their body will always bear scars and the pain may never leave. He tells me of children grateful for one shoebox full of small Christmas presents, so overwhelmed you might think that gold coins had showered down on them from the sky. He tells me of my own helpless, lonely soul that found such comfort in him as a little girl.
And he also tells me of the Pharisees who cleaned the outside of the cup; they always looked good to the watching world. No one could criticize them. And yet they knew nothing of the kingdom. They have neglected the inner person and the unseen acts. And he tells me of the times when I too was a pharisee, concerned with looking good and feeling all too deserving of attention and blessings.
And he points to my baggage, the heap of things that are slowing me down, and he asks if this is my treasure. I'm not sure. There are more than just possessions in these bags; there are a lot of people's opinions of me and dreams I have that don't involve abandoned children or sick people. Whatever greater treasure I'm supposed to find in the kingdom, I'm not sure the messy crowd he describes, including my childhood self, are my crowd anymore. They don't have a lot to give. They don't sound like they know much about art or literature. Do they like eating chips and salsa? I like the people I like, and I'm kind to them (at least most of the time). Isn't that enough?
His patience does not prevent him from saying some tough things.
"The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my good. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21
I immediately leave my coffee cup (even though there is a half a cup left) and my pile of treasures and walk with Jesus down the road to His unusual kingdom.
Or at least that is the route I take in this blog. The truth is that I'm still dwelling in this quaint little inn at the side of the road, and Jesus hasn't come to pick me up yet. My friends say I shouldn't feel guilty for loving what I love, but I know how much I have stored in these barns. I pray that when he comes I'm already half-way out the door with a map to the kingdom and not a lick of baggage.