I recently visited Bjorn and his family in the Dutchy town of Holland…Michigan, of course, just to the east of that Great Lake which bears the state’s name. The crazy thing about the beaches in this town, at least where the Johnson’s live, is that for the most part, they’re unseen. The bunkered cliffs of sand and dunes, together with the beautiful tall pines and sprawling oak trees, shield the beachfront property-less from viewing the lake’s grandeur; that is, of course, unless you can steal a glimpse where a chance gape opens up while driving along that north-south road, the name of which escapes me now.
The weird thing about the beaches in Holland is that even if you wanted to see them, that’s about all you can do: want. Cottages and mansions line the shore as far as the eye can see, and there’s no shortage of NO TRESPASSING signs greeting your adventurous endeavors to steal a little beachside R&R.
Despite these encumbrances, a sliver of hope remains: imaginary road-extension property. That’s the untechnical term I’m using to describe the east-west roads in Holland that, if taken far enough west, once they end, extend invisibly all the way to a precious little slice of heaven about two lanes wide (with some shoulder room to spare). Not only is it perfectly legal to lounge the day away on such property, but it’s also the quintessential opportunity to look at those monstrosities 50 feet overhead with their lake views and immaculately manicured lawns and glorious outside decks where so much important “stuff” must happen, eye them down with a poop-eating grin and yell “Suck it!” for the whole world to hear, which will probably just be your family and one other, as that’s about all the room there is on this tiny public beach.
Naturally, I’m being dramatic here, for whether in plenty or in need, whether enjoying the beach or not, we, as Christians, have learned the secret of being content in every circumstance. And yet, isn’t there something satisfying about knowing that those who seem to “have it all” may, in fact, only have this life to enjoy it? After all, Jesus scathingly reminded the rich in Luke 6 that they’d received their reward in full, and then there’s Paul’s famously misquoted verse about money being the root of all [kinds of] evil in 1 Timothy 6.
The truth is, money’s real hard to handle. I’m not being vindictive or asking for God’s judgment to fall on the rich. According to one of those Barna studies, since I own a car and have money in the bank, only 5% in the world are richer than I am. The truth is, I am the rich, despite my longings to lounge in the lap of Cottage-House-on-Lake-Michigan luxury.
I think that just may be the church’s 21st century blind spot. I’ve often wondered how good-meaning, otherwise godly individuals justified the institution of slavery in the 1800’s, and how outspoken Christian leaders were few and far between during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
Then I just look in the mirror, and realize if it weren’t for an imaginary road in Holland, Michigan, I’m a blind man too. Sometimes God just gives us what we can handle. Even in His dispensation of less-ness, He is merciful.