Buy me. This is the all too familiar undertone of the many television commercials, road signs and printed advertisements that arouse the senses of sight and sound. In the world I live in, consumerism is the champion—it is a behavioral pattern that has easily seduced people searching for unconditional love, good feelings and an all-important self-image. Deeper in consumerism’s trophy case we find another of its medals, this one boasting that it has successfully transformed the way of life from one that is content with the free findings of everyday spirituality into a lifestyle that craves what it doesn’t have and believes more is better. After pondering this trophy case and realizing that what consumerism has given is neither more nor better—and hasn’t really satisfied the craving for unconditional love—we spot a window of hope. This hope reminds that God is still here, still free, still being good to us and welcoming us into a beautiful spirituality.
When my wife and I arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia the other day, we were extremely excited to get to know the place that President John F. Kennedy had described as a woven tapestry of history and beauty. We are explorers at heart and craved excursions into Charlottesville’s gorgeous foothills, historic downtown and the nearby Shenandoah National Park. And after a few days of such adventures, only one more stop remained: a visit to Monticello. Monticello is the historical residence of Thomas Jefferson and one of those sights that other travelers insist you shouldn’t miss when sightseeing in Charlottesville. So, to honor the sages of journeying, Shannon and I left early Saturday afternoon to see where our former president ate, drank, slept, thought and furthered his politics.
Upon arriving, we noticed three things: The landscaping was beautiful, the parking lot was quite overcrowded (due to a marathon being held in the city that day, we supposed) and there was a park and free trail. We weren’t in the mood for hanging with the crowd—and to pay for it at that. Therefore, we decided to return to our room, change from flip flops to walking shoes, and return to experience the trail. We also grabbed a blanket and a couple of books just in case the trail gifted us a cozy spot for entertaining the grace of prose.
The full loop of the trail warranted a hiking commitment of 4.4 miles. The clouds were promising a thunderstorm when we started, but they slowly disappeared as pockets of light blue sky joined hands and became one. The thread of beauty was also on the ground as we came upon blooming trees, rolling hills and some wildlife which came near to say hello and to remind us that all of this is free.
My mind couldn’t help but think back to Jesus comparing us to certain wildlife—birds and wild flowers. Jesus told His audience of yesterday, and tells us again today, that we are in God’s care just as these creations are. The birds don’t sow or reap, Jesus said, yet they don’t go hungry. And when have you seen a flower working for its beauty? Jesus implied that flowers don’t do a thing but God wraps them in beauty anyway. Jesus’ main emphasis here is not to transform us into passive sluggards who do nothing with our lives, but to transform the way in which we engage spirituality. God, as Jesus said in many more words, provides us with enough to live each day, to pray, to encounter beauty and be filled with His Spirit. Our spirituality is to be one that is open to such freedom, open to finding the God who has already found us. He is to be found so often in the free things that are already in our lives, hands and experiences. Shannon and I found God on an open trail. We could have easily paid 30 bucks and witnessed Jefferson’s sofas and tables, but instead, we found God for free.
We didn’t have to become consumers in order to feel good that day. We didn’t have to buy anything to know that God was there with us and speaking to us. God was free that day and is today and will be throughout all of our life’s travels. There is enough to live life today, and no more is needed. There is an open path before us all, something to do, someone with whom to share Jesus’ love, something about which to talk to God, beauty to meditate, libraries with free Bibles and other books to stir our language, a cause to lead, wildlife to watch, friends with whom to be and many other intricacies that we all know individually. We don’t have to purchase what’s on the billboards to find our identity or live our lives in God. But we do have to seek God, and that is a matter of learning contentment, learning to accept that what we already have is enough for an abundant day.