Monday, February 6, 2012
I was leaving at the close of a two-day silent retreat. It was early and the world was still. Pulling out to the main road, I waved good-bye to a weekend rich in spiritual growth, simplicity, and meaning. Cresting a hill through a residential community of grand estates, I passed a mailbox with a sign attached that read, "Limousine For Sale."
It quickly jolted me back to reality and reminded me of the tremendous material wealth we experience as a community and as a nation. It pointed out quickly the extravagant lifestyle so many of us live day to day. There is a daily deluge of dollars doled out for things that are not necessary. I wonder how much money was spent on the half-time show performed by Madonna during the Super Bowl. Of course we know she was paid nothing, but her backup dancers and pyrotechnics probably cost in the millions. All for sheer entertainment and wow. I wonder how much money each person on average spent to purchase one ticket to the football game. Probably not so much compared to the advertisers who paid millions to secure a few seconds of time. Volkswagen alone paid a record $3.5 million for their 30-second spot. I saw that ad. Incredible throwing of dollars to eager viewers. It did not make me want a Volkswagen.
But I must bring it closer to home. I live in a really nice house with three bedrooms and bathrooms seldom used. I have three sets of china - not counting the everyday stuff. I tried to wear every piece of clothing in my closet this past year and failed. Not enough days. (My car is now full of those clothes who are moving to a more needy closet in town.) My refrigerator is full of too much food and the garage is lined with shelves holding half-used promises of greener grass and weed elimination.
Too much. We have too much. And it requires storage and maintenance and dusting off. But amazingly, we miss our own extravagance and fail to realize that there is so much we truly do not need. I am reminded of this when I go on retreat. Having less offers freedom to remember who we are in Christ and why we are here. Doing less in the world opens the door to new activity in the spiritual realm. That is the whole purpose of retreat - reflecting with humility and selflessness for the sake of our spiritual life. One leaves retreat with energies redirected toward fulfillment of a higher purpose in life.
But oh, how quickly we are brought back to the material world. Just steps from the retreat house gate, the sign glared at me - almost in mockery. But I remembered what Jesus said in Mark 6:30 to "Come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest." No need for that limo. All I have to do is open the door to my heart.