On most mornings, you’ll find me reading my Bible, not random websites. But today wasn’t like most mornings.
You see, I made several mistakes. My first mistake that morning was opening an email with the subject line "A few of our favorite looks for fall" and then taking the time to read it.
My second mistake was clicking on the sender’s website. Usually I can delete this type of email without a second thought. But this morning boredom got the best of me and I ventured further into the site. I had the whole day stretching before me with nothing I had to do until evening. And, because this is becoming more of a rarity in my life, I decided to take full advantage of being able to do absolutely nothing of importance.
As it turns out the website was for a woman’s clothing store and the landing page featured a video of stylishly dressed women and men. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the video.
These well-dressed couples were in Paris, having what appeared to be loads of fun. I’ve never been to Paris. Just looking at those cute, little narrow streets lined with cafes and seeing the Eiffel Tower as I listened to the French music that was playing left me ready to impulsively buy a plane ticket and join the fun.
The thing is, I knew I couldn’t go to Paris that day. For one thing, who would I go with? My husband Ed was working. I was pretty sure if I called my sister she wouldn’t think it was such a great idea to run off to Paris on a whim. But maybe there was another way to fill my longing? Perhaps if I went shopping, looked at some pretty clothes, and found some great bargains I could have some fun of my own.
"OK," I told myself, "that will work."
But first, I needed to spend my daily time in Scripture and prayer.
There’s nothing like time with God to reorient me to reality. It was during my prayer time that I felt convicted about my upcoming shopping trip. There wasn’t anything innately wrong with me wanting to go shopping, but the truth was my primary reason for going was to serve myself. I wanted to cater to my desire to indulge myself and have fun. Thanks to the Lord’s conviction, I came to see that my time would be better spent serving others.
A plan formed in my mind—which was certainly the prompting of the Holy Spirit—to call a few women who I knew could use encouragement and gather them for coffee at a local coffee shop.
That afternoon we spent three hours talking, laughing, crying, and enjoying each other’s company. We talked about our lives, our troubles, our families, and our walk with Jesus. It was the real stuff. A community of people who love God and serve each other through relationship. The presence of each other as children of the Most High was much more satisfying than a trip to the mall indulging in dreams of an unreal life. A life that is a thin veneer of reality, which underneath is made up of a camera, make-up artists, and, really let’s face it, no food at those cute cafes for those super-thin models.
Not only did I find that the joy of being with Christian friends was better than an afternoon spent serving myself, but that "giving up" the joy of shopping for fun was really not giving up something at all.
How did I realize this? The key lies in the gospel. It tells us what’s real and what isn’t real, what’s temporary and what’s eternal. The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:18:
As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
As a human being created in the image of God, I have a natural craving to be a part of and participate in those things that have significance and will last. A life lived serving others by giving my time and attention to them is looking to those things that are unseen and eternal. The changes that are wrought in me and others through conversations wrestling with our experiences and how we respond in godly, biblical ways are eternal.
By serving others I take my eyes off that which is transient and set my eyes on the eternal. The serving of me, indulging in a day of feasting for my eyes is transient. It will last about a day! The most important realties involve serving others so that I might see the glory of God.
John Piper puts it this way:
"We walk by faith, not by sight." This doesn’t mean that we leap into the dark without evidence of what’s there. But it does mean that the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our senses now, and we "look" at them through what we know of Christ from faithful witnesses who have seen him and heard his voice. We strengthen our hearts—we renew our courage—by fixing the gaze of our hearts on invisible, objective truth that we learn about through the testimony of those who knew (and know) Christ and were taught by him.
I went away that afternoon encouraged and strengthened. In the testimony of others who were seeking Christ, I was able to see Christ. And I hope that my friends felt the same. There’s no satisfaction to compare with seeing Christ. Not even a day in Paris!