We just celebrated our oldest son's 11th birthday. The occasion left him with a pocket full of money and a head full of dreams over the purchase possibilities that now lay before him. His birthday request was for me to take him to the only place a young boy with a wad of dough wants to go: WalMart.
We loaded up in the Suburban -my first born and I - and headed to town. It is a rare occasion when I can take my eldest somewhere without one of the other three children in tow so it is at best an understatement to say I was thoroughly enjoying our mom and son bonding time.
We arrived at the store and browsed through action figures, fishing poles, baseball bats, and finally electronics. I never knew one of the male species could shop for so long and touch so many things. Unlike his father, this boy did not know what he was going to buy, go in and buy it, and dash out within 7 minutes of hitting the front door. Oh no, this kid is GOOD. He knows how to linger and consider and pick up and put down and come back later when he has decided this is the thing he likes best. His wife will thank me one day. :)
When he had finally made all his selections, I asked him if he was ready to leave. He looked up at me, a little nervously, and here is something how the conversation went:
Boy: "Well, mom, I've been planning something."
Boy: "You know those rings on that display in the jewelry department? I really want to buy you one."
Me: (Bear hugging him) "That is the sweetest thing, but honey, you can keep your money. I appreciate how you want to do this, but I would like for you to have your money to buy yourself something else. Thank you for thinking of me, though."
Boy: (Looking disappointed) "But mom, I really want to. I held some of my money back for it."
Now I have to admit, the one he picked out was not the one I would have picked for myself. But do you honestly think I was going to turn down what he thought made me pretty? You would be correct if you said, "NO!" He searched until he found the right ring in the right size and you've never seen a sweeter face than his when he realized it all worked out like he wanted. It was all over then...I hid behind the rack and cried. I hugged him once again and said, "This is the sweetest thing a boy could do for his mom." He said, "It feels really good to be generous." Be still my heart.
I tell you all of this because very clearly as this event was taking place God was whispering in my ear, "I'm trying to give you something here. PAY ATTENTION." Oh He gave me something alright - like the most perfect intro ever into our retreat that weekend.
In Scripture, the gift God promised to the Israelites by covenant through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the provision of the Land. Not just any land, but a land filled with homes they did not labor to build, vineyards they did not tend, a "land flowing with milk and honey". It was a place of rest and safety. A place where God would teach His children true worship of His name alone. A place where they experienced the abundance of God not to hoard, but to bid to those around them, "come enter our rest."
The land of Palestine is not the most intrinsically beautiful God could have given His children. He could have placed them on Hawaii or at least somewhere with a beach, for Pete's sake. However, God was never concerned with our lying about in comfort. His purpose has always been about fruit-bearing. This is fascinating considering Palestine is described as as an agricultural wonderland. Stick seed in the ground here, and it will multiply as in no other place on the planet. There is also a relationship between God and this place. Most scholars agree, even though the topography of the land is different than pre-flood days, it is within this area where the Garden of Eden once lay. Ah, the Garden: Where God formed Adam from the dust, where He walked with His creation, where Sin required He drive His beloved away. God created us out of this land and, no matter how far we roam, is always about the work of bringing us back home.
The land was very much a physical blessing upon the Israelite community but we can experience it spiritually today. Just like my son giving me a ring that was beautiful in his eyes, the life God is giving you may not look like the one you had envisioned for yourself. We will never appreciate His choices short of the love relationship that will inspire us to respond 'yes, I'll receive and adore what You have picked out'. God has been planning something. It is was an intentional decision on His part to place you in this generation, within the circle of influence you possess because He alone knew the impact perhaps only your life could have on another in your midst. Our God wants to make us, in my southern twang, spiritually 'perty'. And, if you are like me, you want to wear the life God has said will make you most beautiful. God rejoices in 'being generous'. He is trying to give us Canaan! It is about time we quit looking back over our shoulders at Egypt and simply walked face forward into the gift.
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This is an image of the place on Mt. Nebo where tradition says Moses overlooked the Promised Land before his death.