Kingdom life, like summer living, abounds in fruit. It relishes the sheer abundance of God’s provision.
God has a knack for doing “exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or imagine.” For wide swaths of our existence, we take that on faith. But in the summers of our hearts, we acknowledge it as fact. The evidence is everywhere. In earth’s summer, most gardens and fruit trees produce more than an average householder knows what to do with. (Where I live, late summer is like a potlatch of neighbors trying to give one another zucchinis and apples, plums and cabbages.) Likewise in summers of the heart, God provides more than most of us have the capacity to hold. When I’m in summertime, God gives me insight into the Bible faster and thicker than I can write it down or share with others. I live in a perpetual state of discovery. I’m Indiana Jones on the scent of the Spirit. And virtually everything seems another clue. Every book I read, movie I watch, conversation I have, situation I encounter-with maximum effort, each brims with meaning, illuminates some idea, connects with some truth or another. What I can dredge only in trace amounts of winter tumbles down in vast abundance in summer. Which leads to a caution. In summer, it’s easy to become a spiritual consumer-picky, wasteful, taking it all for granted.
Maybe the best way to understand this is to compare it with our tendency to ordinary consumerism. Consumerism’s worst symptom is that nothing’s enough. It imposes no outer limit or inward restraint on our appetites. The result of this is we crave many things and enjoy none. That’s what unchecked appetite does: increases hunger but diminishes satisfaction, so that we’re always wanting and never happy. We’re addicted to pleasure but never pleased.
Perhaps the greatest irony of consumerism is that, for all its treasure-hounding, the one thing it’s robbed us of is the capacity to treasure. Everything is disposable in a consumerist culture. In an article I wrote years ago for Christianity Today, I called it the “cult of the next thing,” an almost religious devotion to chase what I lack rather than enjoy what I have.
So this is where clarification is crucial: kingdom living (which summer gives us a taste of) could not be more different. It delights in the abundance that’s already here rather than looking for more. It takes pleasure in bounty. It treasures treasure. In other words, the kingdom is not when we need more but when we rejoice in the sheer muchness, the ampleness, of what we already have. One sign of this is you share that abundance and, even, give it away. The boy who offered little food he had to Jesus had personal abundance-five loaves and two fishes. It was more than enough, if all he cared about was himself. But in sharing his abundance with Jesus, who shared it with everyone, scarcity turned into abundance for all. Which is another irony of consumerism: it teaches us to hoard, to keep abundance all to ourselves, and so fosters a mindset of scarcity. Only abundance shared let’s us discover more than we asked or imagined.
I’ve learned a lot these past few years from my native friends, the Cowichan people. One of their traditions, for years banned by the Canadian government, was the potlatch-roughly translated “the great deeds.” The government banned the potlatch because they deemed it wasteful. That’s because the potlatch is not about hoarding wealth-a great Canadian tradition-but about giving wealth away. In the potlatch, a tribal chief would flaunt his wealth by bestowing it on another. This struck Canadian lawmakers as counterintuitive, which it certainly is, and opposed to all that is right and good and decent, which it certainly is not. Because in the potlatch tradition, what goes around comes around, and the result is wealth for all, not the few.
What grieves me is that early missionaries didn’t see the potlatch for what it was: a sign of the kingdom, a token of the One who “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that through His poverty might become rich.” The potlatch was the most ready-made container for explaining the Gospel and the kingdom of God, in all of its counterintuitiveness, to native people. Abundance, like love and honor and peace, is increased by giving it away. Instead of seeing that, the Canadian government saw the potlatch as a threat, an upheaval, to our economic system, and got rid of it right fast.
Hoarding wealth, so much the way of the world, is the opposite of enjoying it. Thus, the world is the inverse of the kingdom, where wealth is only wealth when enjoyed, and that only when shared.
The kingdom rhythm of summertime is when we stop living in the mode of craving and complaining and instead live in the mode of giving and thanksgiving. It’s how it must have been in Eden before the serpent began to preach the doctrines of consumerism and scarcity. It’s how Adam and Eve, naked and without shame, must have spent their days, relishing each moment, the cool shimmer of morning, the drowsy heat of midday, the golden light and purple shadows of late afternoon, the riot of song and fragrance that broke out each night. They must have gone from tree to tree, sampling the vast array of fruit, overwhelmed by the abundance, the variety, the goodness of it all. Relishing every flavor, every texture, every everything for it’s own sake, not wanting it to be otherwise, not wishing for it to end or, for that matter, to stay. The joy of having a thing, they knew by holy instinct, was completed only by sharing the thing. All was pure gift, undeserved but gladly received, to be neither hoarded nor squandered, only shared, only enjoyed. The one response to all this: “Thank you!”
Taking a look back through almost 50 years of physical life, I could expound on the moment God had awoken my spiritual eyes to see that I was in need of divine help when God rescued my soul from going to the pit of hell. Or I could expound on my worldly accomplishments that I’ve made such as having my name in the academic National Honor Society in a private, Christian high school. Or I could list my number of awards and acomplishments like my 1995 Wheelhouse Gold Service Volunteer Award earned while I going to college which wasn’t easy since I had a learning disability (I will get to that in the season of winter). While finishing up my Master’s program in higher education, I successfully was able to lead the “HEADS UP!” project, a progam that teaches high school students about brain injury, steps they can take to prevent it, and if they should get a brain injury how to live with the brain injury. I could focus in on my honorary privilege of serving in the New Hampshire Developmental Disabilities Council where I served one year as the Vice-Chair of the Members Relations Committee and four years as the Chair. The late 1990’s, I was president of M.U.D.S. TASK FORCE (MODERNIZATION of the UNIVERSAL DISABILITIES SYMBOL-a grassroots organization that found as its goal to modify the International Symbol of Access. After all the members of M.U.D.S. TASK FORCE traveled to R.I. Central Office for a scheduled meeting, M.U.D.S. TASK FORCE was unable to convince R.I. Secretary General on a design (over 25 designs altogether) that expressed the true meaning of a disability. Instead, in 2013, Rehabilitation International unveiled the new symbol, which depicts a person getting of one’s wheelchair which still speaks of physical disability rather than speak of the whole being. Rather, we were awarded with the 1st design proposal change in the Western Hemisphere. However, I gave all the credit to Christ Jesus for all our work and how far it got M.U.D.S. TASK FORCE as I did with everything in my life. Yet, this isn’t the story I want to tell.
2019 Thanksgiving is the story I want to tell as our family traveled to go spend Thanksgiving with another family, to whom defied the the evils of commercialism (although they had all the technology a house could want). They caused our whole family to be in awe of the One who is broken for all of us (Jesus Christ). And don’t think we were the only ones invited over as they invited other family members as well. Our family could not have felt more at home. No individuals playing with their cell phones, rather we (all of us) played board games. Now that Thanksgiving Day was one of the best, yet the other family that invited us over did not make it into a spiritual enterprise where you had to be a Christian in order to get something out of it. No, no, no! Actually, that’s not at all what they did. They welcomed us along with the other family members with two additional interns staying at their house. What was the most outstanding was the way he honored God before we sat down to eat. However, the prayer to Almighty God before the Thanksgiving Day meal was simple; yet, it was (in my estimation) simply powerful. Then we began to eat and have fun. It was one of the best Thanksgiving Day meals my family and I have ever been a part of as our family was truly blessed by the gathering that celebrated the One whom True Life Christians owe their life to, Christ Jesus! And all we can do is say, THANKS!
~Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger