This morning I read an excellent post titled, "Does God Hate Nice Stuff?" over at the Donald Miller and Friends blog. The article's author contrasts the two poles of luxury and simplicity by talking of her own journey to be more unlike the rich young ruler by giving a good portion of her stuff away, and experiencing the heavenly beauty of a resort conference she was invited to speak at. She doesn't believe God hates nice stuff for a few logical reasons beyond her own experience, one being that "nice stuff" is relative. What's nice to you may not be nice to your neighbor (locally or globally).
One observant commenter wrote: "I think where it goes wrong is when we PURSUE nice things. When we work only to get NICE THINGS. When we compare ourselves to others and have to have what others have to 'keep up with the Jones'.' Then there's times when God just wants to bless us and that's when I believe it's good to enjoy the beauty of nice things. As long as they don't become the thing in which we work for or pursue. Pursuing God will give us just enough of what we need. And what WE need may be different than someone else's needs."
I really resonated with that last line. If I am not free to be as God has allowed me to be in this present moment, or if I am not free to accept the grace of God meeting my needs, my soul is not free to create when it is distracted by worrying if I need too much.
As I step toward God and the freedom he offers I begin to live in the relative reality that good is not always poor and bad is not always rich, and needs aren't only in the form of food, water, and shelter. For "[w]hen does something move from nice to extravagant? To me, refusing to allow myself to enjoy nice things (or even extravagant things, whatever that means to me) prevents me from fully experiencing the extravagant love and blessings of God." I think there's a missing connection between my scarcity mentality and God's love-filled lavishness. For if I take my scarcity mentality to its infinite, then I wouldn't have approved of the grand temple God designed for himself because it cost too much, and I wouldn't be an artist today because it's not efficient and doesn't open wells or food banks for people in desperate need of food and water.
God knows each of us and what our particular needs are, even if they are needs for beauty, rest, love, community, or food and water. What could happen if I kept my hands open to God? And what if I didn't judge for others, or God, what is "enough" or for what they "need"? What could happen if I helped bring about the kingdom of God now by using what I've been given to love and help meet people's needs, trusting that my well will be replenished? What if I redefined luxury?
(Phil. 4; Matt. 6; John 10)
John & Gail had a beautiful wedding at Disney's Grand California Hotel - as beautiful as the story that led them up to committing to each other on July 13, 2013. Me and my photo team photographed their day, filled with fun, games, smiles, and happiness. Congrats you three!
For the past two months I've been blessed to say that each time I "go to work" it's pretty consistently been either to a photo shoot of my choosing or to teach someone how to take better photographs. The other day someone I met in passing asked what I did for a living and "photography teacher" just slipped out. It felt liberating and compelling as I thought about it later.
My spiritual director once said to me that I have a unique ability to help others see the truth of themselves. And I believed him.
And now, as I find myself in this new skin, I can't help but think that perhaps in all my teaching on exposure settings and metering modes, maybe I'm equipping or empowering people to see differently, too. Maybe someday they'll see themselves with the same grace that they're learning to see the world with.