It’s Spring Break. For our family, that means soccer camps, hikes, and Hat Creek burgers with friends. The soccer camp my son is attending happens to be in a part of Austin I don’t know very well. It’s a lovely 30 minute drive out towards the lake, and I must admit, it’s quite a bit ‘nicer’ than my hood. Everyone’s lawn is perfectly manicured, their SUVs are sparkling clean and there is none of the familiar eclectic, Keep-Austin-Weird vibe that our city is famous for.
On the second day of my son’s soccer camp, I was tired of the work-out-of-a-coffee-shop thing and craved some fresh air. The surrounding neighborhood near the soccer fields was lovely and convenient, so I decided to go for a walk around there.
As I started down the sidewalk (they have sidewalks on every street!), the road started to curve and quickly slope downhill rather steeply. My gut told me this route would eventually take me right to the edge of the lake. I was right.
I put on my zippy Christian music (very limited selection on Pandora, unfortunately, so I had to keep voting thumbs down to avoid the cheese) and was feeling quite alive. Initially, the houses were one or two steps up from ours. Not that I was comparing. They were spacious and had a uniformity and tidiness that often comes along with expensive lots in nice neighborhoods. But my heart was like: Good for them. Such a lovely place to live. But I like where I am.
Note: These are generic Google images, not actual pictures of Austin homes.
But then I kept going. The further down the hill I got and the closer to the lake I was, the bigger the homes became. Y’all, I’ve seen plenty of nice neighborhoods and nice homes. I grew up in one. But when I crossed into this gated community at the edge of the lake (I had to make a mad dash through the gates when a car drove out – shhh, don’t tell!), my jaw dropped. The houses were magnificent, beyond anything I was accustomed to. They had enormous, sprawling lawns with landscaping that didn’t miss the tiniest detail of careful planning and maintenance, with bubbling fountains and flowering vines of varieties I’d never seen before. There were private patios with outdoor kitchens and firepits that overlooked the water and the stunning view of the rugged cliffs beyond. There were 4-car garages and basketball courts (full court, of course) and tennis courts and fancy trampolines I’d never seen before and zero edge swimming pools and Master Craft boats that were bigger than my kids’ bedroom. My jaw dropped. And well, my heart was suddenly filled with a little bit of jealousy and judgment all at once.
The jealous part in me whispered: Imagine what life would be like if we raised our kids in a home like this, where we could wake up and watch the fog lift off the water, then head down to the dock and have a quite family outing on the boat before the busyness of weekend activity set in. Oh, imagine what kind of writing office I could have, with big picture windows and plenty of privacy. How could I NOT be inspired to write works of beauty from a place like this? And oh, of course, we would be generous with what we had. Imagine what kind of parties we could throw, inviting neighbors and classmates and friends and family into our home. We could do so much MORE ministry! But we wouldn’t stop there. Of course, we would always have a couple of rooms available for people who could not afford housing in Austin – college students, missionaries and international students. Oh, the things we could do if we had a home like one of these….
But that voice was soon silenced by the judgmental one: How materialistic these people are, how clueless to the needs of the world around them! How sickening, to see the level of wealth these people have, tucked into their own little private world, hidden from the hurt and poverty and need of those around them. They are the selfish 1%. Why don’t you give your money away? I bet you SAY that you’re generous, but are you really? Do you REALLY need a 4-car garage and private boat dock? How much are you spending to keep up this lifestyle? Why don’t you give until it HURTS, instead of tossing the world your meager chump change???
But then, I heard the gentle, familiar whisper that comes from a place deep within, which said: Neither response is right, my child. There is no need to envy, nor to judge. What you see on the outside does not tell the full story. These people are my precious children, just like you are, and they struggle with the same heart issues as anyone else: fear, pride, insecurity, judgment, hurt, resentment and greed. Those outside of these gates who live with so much less also have heart issues of greed, envy, arrogance and judgment. On the outside, things look different. But on the inside, it is very much the same. There is a war waging within each of your hearts, my precious ones, a fight between darkness and light, between good and evil.
In response, I whined: But Lord, even so, look at how these people live! How can you allow such inequality to exist, such pain and suffering, while these people are completely naive to the world around them. You know what I’ve seen in Bangladesh and Calcutta and Guayaquil, beggars on the streets without arms and legs, communities of people living on the side of a mountain in homes made of metal and plastic who are dealing with malaria and leaking roofs and unclean water? These people have NO idea.
You are right. Many do not have any idea of how the rest of the world lives, nor do they want to know. But leave those things up to me. What I want you to remember, my precious one, is that renewal is coming. Be patient. All things are being restored. It is happening, even now. But I am waiting my child, every so patiently, for the hearts of my children to turn. And then, only then, will I bring My Kingdom down to earth. And when I do, oh my child, You will understand.
These mansions are nothing compared to what this city will look like when heaven comes down. Austin has always been a city my children have been fond of, but just you wait to see what a fully renewed Austin will look like! You can’t imagine! Oh my child, the poor and needy that your heart hurts so deeply for will experience a richness and fullness of life beyond your wildest imagination. As will you.And all of those who let their hearts choose light and life, who choose Good, not Evil, who choose Surrender, not Self. You are a part of this restoration process, my child. You are part of bringing Light to life around. That is why I wait.
In my Kingdom, there will be no gates or private codes or alarms. All will be welcome, no one will be shut out. And oh, how glorious it will be. To see my children’s faces light up when we take family boat rides across this lake that will sparkle like diamonds. There will be no fear of drowning, no painful sunburns or itchy mosquito bites. No, my dear, there will be no fear at all. This gated community of mansions will open its gates to all. And each of my children, in their own precious way, is part of this movement of renewal and restoration right here, right now, every day.
Be patient, my child. My Kingdom is coming.