Friday, March 14, 2008

Welcome to Bountiful

A few years ago Tammy and I were spending a couple of days in New York City. We loved to walk in Manhattan. We spent the better part of the day walking to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and on our way back to our hotel we went past the Trump Tower. We went inside and approached the uniformed doorman. In typical Southern style I asked, "Sir, where is your restroom?" His answer was sharp and snappy. "My restroom is in Queens but you'll need to get a cab to get there." I said, "I bet that wasn't the first time you've been asked that question, was it?"

What was I thinking? I should have expected that kind of response in New York. There would be something wrong if a doorman in New York upon hearing a dumb question in a Southern drawl didn’t answer in this manner. But it made me think about the uniqueness of the environs I inhabit. It made me wonder what my neighborhood is like to strangers and visitors and walkers who need a restroom. Well, that led to another thought.

Do you remember the Walgreens ad campaign of a couple of years ago? The one that shows an idealized community where everything goes right and nothing ever goes wrong. The place is called "Perfect." A voice then reminds you that real life is not perfect, and that is why you need a Walgreens nearby. I don't know that I would want to live in a place called "Perfect." Beyond the reality that hits when I move in and "Perfect" ceases to be just that, there is no place this side of the New Jerusalem that is or can be perfect. Most people accept this truism, but we still long for a place that is near perfect.

This side of heaven, I think I would prefer a place called "Bountiful." Bountiful is a place God desires us to live our lives. Bountiful is a place where God's grace matches and exceeds life's dilemmas. The Apostle Paul talks of it in Second Corinthians. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." Bountiful is God's answer to a sinful fallen existence where pain, heartache, suffering and hard things abound. For all too many people, "Bountiful" is as far-fetched as Walgreens’ "Perfect." In fact it is very close to a corner near you.

In Bountiful, God's grace meets you where you are and lifts you to where you need to be. Grace abounds for the failures of life. Grace rules relationships and grace supplies our needs. God provides for those who trust in him with all of their heart. Lest you begin to see the place Bountiful as some resort, let me remind you that it is a place of the harshest reality. Grace comes bountifully to those whose diagnosis is bad, whose child has Downs Syndrome, whose love of a life just walked out, and those touched by death's icy fingers. Bountiful is not what you would expect; it has a high crime rate, bad traffic, lousy attitudes and very poor service.

So why should I want to be there? It is God's way. He planted you in a less than perfect world to be the object of His grace and love. In order to do what He desires most, communicate his love to hurting humanity. Bountiful is not for the faint of heart. It is for the brokenhearted. You see God has planned a place called Perfect, but it is still under construction, nearing completion but undone at this hour. Bountiful is God's answer for an otherwise bare existence. The New York doorman was not a guy with a bad attitude; he was a reminder to me that God's grace is bountiful, and a good laugh at your own expense is worth the price of admission.

Come see me sometime, down the street, past the signpost that reads, "Welcome to Bountiful!"

Ed Litton


AmberG said...

Hello neighbor!
We love you!

Landon and Amber Gaines

TJ said...

Thanks for another great and challenging post. Still praying for you and your family here in Boston.

Denise N said...

What a wonderful posting! You are right, bountiful isn't perfect but it is where I want to be. I recently moved back to Mobile and I am so looking forward to being back in the congregation. It is good to be home. Pastor Ed, you and the kids continue to be in my prayers.

Denise Newton