I finished my workout today at the YMCA downtown Dallas, and as I left, I pulled my Ford Edge onto the bustling downtown street and looped back to return to the hospital where my wife is laying on a hospital bed in a dimly lot room waiting on our baby girl to be born. We feel a bit displaced as we are going on almost a month in Dallas where a team of high risk specialists are supervising the daily condition of Nicole and baby Adilynn as they near the finish line of this marathon called pregnancy. While we are waiting, I sneak away to my retreat (the gym) to work off stress, comply with my introvert compulsions to be alone for a bit, and breath unfiltered air. The sanitized, controlled conditions of the world called hospital where house keeping mops our floors and empties our trash three times a day and urine measurements are even more frequent seem to pull the walls in a little tighter. A perfect world for me would be a quiet place with freedom to study and read to my heart’a content, sip on a hot cup of espresso and mix in a daily grunt session at the gym. About all I can find at in the hospital is a cup of low grade coffee.
So, imagine my surprise and amazement today as I pull out of the covered parking supplied by the Y onto the street only to see something that had somehow evaded me in the half dozen trips I had previously made here over the last two weeks. Within throwing distance of each other sat the YMCA, First Baptist Dallas and Starbucks. Now this may not generate the same excitement for you, but as I pulled to the intersection where I had one of these on each side of me, the scenes of a potential perfect day unfolded between my ears.
You see First Baptist Dallas is a monster church in the heart of downtown Dallas with a rich history…
And a great library. I could probably camp out in there for days filling myself to the brim with theology and philosophy (two great loves of mine, yet I never seem to have the quantity of time that I would prefer to simply sit and study). Whenever I needed to I could walk across the street to Starbucks and treat myself to a smooth cup of espresso as I meditate on the afore consumed thoughts, expressions and ideas. When my caffeination had reached it’s perfect peak, I could skip across the street to the Y (unconcerned about those who jeer me because I’m skipping), and indulge in a grueling session slinging iron, allowing myself an hour of clarity from all other things that may pull at my attention.
…this beautiful scene was unfolding in my swooning head all in a matter of seconds as I parked at the red light on the intersection of heaven and earth, and in my momentary trance I thought, “This is perfect. I could thrive here.”
Yet immediately a thunderous whisper popped my utopian bubble. He spoke to me, as he usually does, full of grace, and said, “no, you would die here.”
Immediately I knew what he meant.
When we come to the place of relaxed contentment where out primary concern is how to satisfy ourselves, we effectively dam up the river of life flowing through us and we quickly become stagnant. Now it is not wrong to have time devoted to learning, enjoying the fine things in life and reserving time for self-improvement, but all of these serve a purpose and are not an end in and of themselves. When they become the end, our focus turns inward and our personal needs and desire trump the needs of others. The time we take for ourselves only truly satisfies when we can leave those times equipped and ready to give. To take up residence when you see the mana is to forget about the promised land. The mana is fuel for journey only.
I knew what he meant when he whispered this revelation “…you would die here.” I will thrive as I pour out, not as I pour in. If I were to live in a place where every comfort and need was met by what I could get from others or from myself, I would no longer sense my desperation for Him who is my source of life. If I were to stop my journey and decide to set up camp where I could settle into a routine focused on fueling my love for things that will not last or do not matter in eternity, I would then become as effective as a dead man. To walk as Jesus walked is to be looking for places to reveal the love of the Father. Yes, downtown intersections need this love and some are called there. But let us follow His call and not our own. Let us continue the journey and look for those places of need instead of those places of paradise on earth. Our destination is a paradise, but it’s not on any intersection in this world.