At the height of my career I was fortunate enough (depending on your perspective) to have experienced some of the finer things in life. Luxury cars, a boat in the Chesapeake, condo in Antigua, oceanfront vacation home in North Carolina, and at-will travel to some of the most amazing places in this hemisphere. Staying at some of the finest hotels including The Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, a place in Philly that was once called the Bellevue Stratford, and even a few boutique hotels that no one ever heard of. I even stayed in a $10,000 a night suite at the Venetian in Vegas on business not long after 9/11 – just by asking for an upgrade since the place was a ghost town. Ok – what’s my point? It has everything to do with getting my need for significance met through the accolades that come with prestige in this world, rather than through a relationship with God. I call that occupying the “God Spot” with something other than God Himself. The place in each of us reserved only for Him. Idolatry is a strong word to describe that attitude but in my case, it definitely applied.
With my balance sheet at the center of my identity crisis, I wasn’t hearing much from God. Yes, I considered myself blessed, from the world’s standards. But in no way was I nearly as wealthy as the folks I was trying to emulate. But that mindset just reminds me of what Rockefeller said when asked how much money was enough? To which he replied, “just a little bit more”.
Caveat alert! I, in no way, am condemning or judging anyone that has amassed great wealth. In fact, 15 percent of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions-more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined. It’s an important subject and even greater tool. Many Christ followers have been given the gift to manage a whole lot of it. The love of money is the issue. Has it occupied space in your mind, heart, and psyche – crowding out all ability for the Holy Spirit to speak and to lead? In my case, It certainly did.
You know – there will always be somebody, richer, smarter, prettier, wiser or more talented. Or so it may seem to you. But to be blunt – who cares? We’ve been endowed by our Creator-God with a uniqueness that only we possess. The problem lies in how we take hold of that fact and cozy up next to Him to see what He really thinks of us. Not what our neighbor or co-worker, or boss, or the world at large thinks of us. Or, when we check into The Ritz and have our Mercedes valet parked – looking around to see who’s noticing while hoping they just snuggle it in behind that red Ferrari 458 Italia. You know, with all the other showcase cars that get to be displayed for everyone to gawk at as they wander around outside that 5-star hotel.
So, what about that notion that we can “cozy up next to Jesus” – and have a personal relationship with Him? One that provides the opportunity to hear from Him in that still small voice that speaks to our heart. Or delivers a “God kiss” in nature or through our pets. Just at the right time and often when we least expect it. Or more directly through His Inherent Word – The Bible. Or through other people. Or through our circumstances. Truth be told, I wasn’t hearing much of anything back in the days when all that mattered to me was accumulating stuff. A pretty short sited view of what matters in this life.
But now, a different story. Colleen and I were visiting Stone Harbor a couple weeks ago. A real favorite of ours. Just a nice, peaceful, seaside town along the southern coast of New Jersey. We didn’t stay at the Ritz-Carlton or a 5-star equivalent – just a tiny little Motel that we’ve come to love and appreciate; owned by a family that we’ve taken a liking to and visa-versa. Frankly, you have to step out of the tiny bathroom just to change your mind.
At the beach that day I asked God a very simple question.
But first some background. I’ve been grumpy the last couple weeks. Just ask my wife, who’s healed up enough to never take it personally or own my junk – and love me anyway. Paying attention not to give much credence to the “enemy” attacks, which can be predictable, I wanted to know why. So, I asked God. “What’s going on with me?” It took only seconds to hear back. He’s that way. If you wanna know something. Just get quiet with Him. He’ll come clean, eventually. This eventually just happened to be immediate. “You’re grumpy because you expected your business to advance more quickly, your finances to be in better shape and I don’t blame you. I get it.” It was the coolest thing I’ve heard in a long time. No condemnation. No judgment. Just a loving response to deep concerns of mine.
I looked down at the shallow surf and saw a small Top Neck clamshell and picked it up. Then another tiny Button clamshell and picked it up, placing it inside of the other. Then I “heard” this. “Big or small, I’m in it all”. What? Yep! He’s in it all. I can be grumpy about what I perceive as inaction or accept this little gift of encouragement assuring me that He’s in it all. Big or small.
I sure hope you can relate. Even if you aren’t hearing a thing. He’s always “working” on our behalf. Loving you in every moment. Patience, please.
One of the coolest takeaways for me that day was, in wealth or in want, He loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. Problem was that the distractions of this world impacted my ability to hear from Him. I stayed at the Ritz and didn’t hear a thing. I stayed at The Lark and heard all I needed to hear. For that day and in that moment, I knew God had my back. In it all, big or small.