"There's only so much fortune a person needs, and the rest is just for showin' off."
~Forrest Gump's momma
The great twentieth century theologian Francis Schaeffer immortalized the phrase "personal peace and affluence" in his day; in his books and messages he asserted that the quest for personal peace and affluence was the downfall of great nations in history past. I think what is true in the "universals" is often true in the "particulars".
This quest for personal peace and affluence often marks the downfall of a man or woman as well.
That phrase has haunted me since I first read it, nearly two decades ago. Personal peace and affluence. Schaeffer's warning applies to all socio-economic levels, because we are all tempted to seek our version of it.
Periodically, over the years, I examine my attitude for signs of any sense of entitlement - any indication that I am placing my "personal peace" ahead of the call of God on my life - a call which often (almost always) takes me far out of my comfort zone. It is a call which always involves some level of obscurity and servanthood, and truth be known we all fear obscurity and service.
I've learned that I don't need to be noticed or appreciated, contrary to pop psychology. I do not have to "feel" whole and comfortable before I get about the business of loving God and loving others. I am already made complete in Christ. His grace truly is sufficient.
I will confess, nothing has forced me to look at my version of affluence like my son graduating high school, and two daughters getting married in less than one year. My husband being in full time ministry and me a career home maker (otherwise known as financial suicide), my biggest fear was to one day not be able to afford to pay for college or weddings.
With the first daughter's wedding, I began my planning process and discovered that the "average" wedding budget was something like $20,000. Often, the budget can be much more. I knew we didn't have close to that available to spend, and so I was forced to confront my deepest fears.
My version of affluence. What is your version? How hotly have you pursued it? At what cost?
I gave it up - the inner struggle was immense. We had the available credit for me to be as lavish as I wished, but the conviction to pay for all or most of both weddings in cash.
With my back against the wall, I called in the troops. The Harvest Church Women. They came through like you would not believe, furnishing us with the most lovely wedding reception for Hannah - location, food, and all. A few men in Harvest made themselves completely available to Tim in the days before the wedding, to haul chairs, clean the barn, anything we needed. Tim found out who his true friends were that week! Yeah. The ones who didn't find someplace else they "had to be".
I've always known who my friends are. At any point in life, they are the women who are "still here". Harvest women were there, involved in all aspects of Hannah's reception, and are once again (less than one year later!) involved in every detail of Sarah's reception.
How humbling to relinquish my version of affluence, my misguided dream of what a "wedding celebration" looks like, and embrace True Community. I discovered that life lived in community made for a far, far better, more beautiful wedding than I could have ever "bought". Some things absolutely cannot be bought, some honors should not be farmed out to a bidder. Weddings are about community!
Church life is antithetical to personal peace and affluence. If you try to have your personal peace and affluence, and engage in real church life too, you will find yourself leaving church after church. If you try to have your personal peace and your version of affluence and also have healthy relationships, you will find yourself cutting off relationship after relationship.
You will never be able to have it both ways. God's peace is "not as the world gives", pure and simple.