“Can you take our picture?”
Virginia and I were walking on a nearly deserted stretch of beach when a young couple ran up and asked for our help. They were friendly and cute (fresh out of Tulane), and we gladly obliged. And afterwards, they had one more question:
“Can we give you something?”
Virginia and I exchanged a look. “Sure…”
We walked up to their beach camp and the fellow got out a little jar full of marbles. Blue ones. Like this:
“This is part of movement,” he explained, popping the lid and giving us each one of his stash. “There was a professor who had cancer and resolved to live life to the full, even during his chemo. And every day that he did it–every day he felt like he’d experienced abundance–he put a blue marble into a jar. So now we are doing the same thing. And I hope you will, too.”
I’m a little hazy on the details (like, I’m not sure if the professor is still alive, or if the beach couple even knew him), but anytime anybody talks up abundance, I’m in. Especially when it’s paired with words like “life to the full,” which (if you’ve been around this blog for awhile) you KNOW takes me straight to this verse:
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)
That’s Jesus, outlining the whole reason he came. The whole reason he died. The whole reason why we can live free.
So…is the “blue marble movement” a Jesus-y thing? I don’t know. I looked it up on Instagram (@bluemarbleday) and the organizers cite the Bible as one of their texts (along with a few other not-Bible books), and the three tenets that undergird what they are doing–encouraging gratitude, promoting hope, and kindling love–are three things I’m pretty sure Jesus would like. I do too.
But the lack of any overt mention of Christ got me thinking. Not about the Blue Marble People (cuz I think what they are doing is great; who doesn’t need to be more intentional about things like gratitude?), but about my own self.
And about God.
And about whether my idea of abundance parallels his.
Like, if I were going to put a marble in my jar at the end of the day, it would probably be because I’d enjoyed some combo of coffee, exercise, time spent with people I like, and time spent with God. And if I had done something truly significant–something like, say, moving my winter clothes out of the closet so that the cute summer tops could come in (a task I have yet to accomplish in 2018)–I might even give myself two, and call it a Blue Blue Marble Day.
But is that what Jesus would say? Like, is checking projects off the to-do list part of his “abundant life” vision? Is treating myself to a venti-sized latte what he meant when he said I could live life “to the full”? Is it really all about getting…exercise?
I kinda doubt it.
(Okay, I seriously doubt it.)
But I wasn’t sure, exactly, what Jesus would say. And then, wouldn’t you know (and I am not making this up), I picked up the book I had brought to the beach and read this:
The root word for “abundantly” [in John 10:10] is perissos, meaning “exceedingly more, going past the expected limit.” The word for”life” is zoe, and it encompasses our physical presence and future eternal existence.
(Seriously? I picked a beach read with Greek words? Sheesh. I didn’t know. The cover is pink!)
The author went on, contrasting the world’s definition of abundance with God’s: If abundance is exceedingly more, going past the expected limit of life, we’ve got to check our hearts to be sure we’re not just expecting God to produce exceedingly more, going past the limit of stuff. It’s the age-old struggle: Do we want more of what God can give us, or do we want more of God?
(Ahhh. We’ve been there. Several times, in fact–including back in 2016, when I wrote a post called The Gifts or the Giver.)
Obviously, we have to want God more than stuff. But what happens when we don’t? What happens when we turn to things like Netflix or date nights (or, in my case, tidy sock drawers and lattes) to make us feel good? To fill in the gaps? To help us relax or re-charge?
Here’s what happens: “When we take our needs to the temporary, less-than-perfect comforts of this world, we are left feeling empty and wanting more.”
At least that’s what Jess Connolly says. She’s the gal who wrote my beach book, which is all about pursuing holiness (instead of just rule-keeping), embracing grace (the transformative kind, not the stuff that just winks at our sin), and stepping into abundance (as in, the for-real life God offers). The book is called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground. And, for whatever freaky reason, it’s just $3.79 on Amazon right now, so if you want it, click here.
And…what if you also want some blue marbles? I know I do–I’m getting some for all of my kids. I’m gonna wrap ’em up in a bag and attach a John 10:10 tag, and tell them what I’m telling myself:
This summer, when you find yourself facing a need (whether it’s a desire for peace, or more energy, or just to feel better and more confident about what life looks like right now), press into Jesus. Trust him to supply what you lack. Take him at his word–that is, give him the chance to show you who he is, and what he can do.
Expect exceedingly more.
And then, at the end of the day, give yourself a blue marble to remind you how all-sufficient God is, and how incredibly much you are loved.
Thank you that Jesus came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. Help us take hold of that promise, knowing that as we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. Let us find our deepest satisfaction and joy not in your gifts, but in you. (John 10:10, James 4:8, Psalm 90:14).