Every souvenir tells a story. Every keychain or coffee mug means something, whether a memory of a mighty experience or a tangible reminder of a foolish impulse.
When the youth group I lead embarked upon our very first international mission trip to Jamaica, I knew I needed a special souvenir to bring home. When we went shopping on our final day, I spotted this bowl.
I wanted something in my office I could look at each day as a reminder of the incredible journey God sent me on that week.
What I thought I was getting was an authentic piece of Jamaica craftsmanship. When I got home and unpacked, I realized I had something else.
All I had to do was flip the bowl over before I spent my money on it to avoid this mistake. As much as I want to blame the shopowner for selling me misleading merchandise, I know the blame is on me. It’s my fault for buying something without doing my research.
At one time or another most of us have questioned if the God we follow is the same one that we originally bought into. Have we been bamboozled? Are we getting everything we bargained for in this walk of faith?
We’re getting so much more.
Some people want God to be a rulemaker. Some people want God to be like a magical genie.
Some people want God to be an escape from reality Some people want God to take away all their pain. Some people want God to be like a cruise to the Caribbean.
God is not a rulemaker. He frees us from rules and restrictions.
God is not a magical genie. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but He does give us more than we need.
God is not an escape from reality. God offers us victory in reality.
We’re not the first people to misread the God we invest in. In Joshua 24:2-15 Joshua addresses the Israelites who had long wanted God to be something He was not.
The Israelites asked, “Where is this God who’s supposedly doing all these incredible things?” Joshua answered, “Are you serious? He is all around you. He has always been with you. And He will never leave you.”
Joshua rattled off God’s impressive resume. God brought His people out of Egypt. He led them to victory over Amorites and Moabites and any other -ite that came their way. He gave them land and food and life.
God left the Israelites souvenirs of His grace scattered all around. He left it up to them to pick up the souvenirs and see who truly made them.
God gave the Israelites an opportunity to choose who they would follow. That same choice is one that we need to make each day.
There are plenty of gods who will be what we want them to be. We are free to worship them. We are free to experience the pain and heartbreak which come from worshipping these Gods as well.
But just like my souvenir bowl from Jamaica was an impostor, there are many impostor gods out there who are trying to offer people what they want but will never be able to do so. Like Joshua, instead I will choose to worship the God who I know will be real, who will give me more than I could ever bargain for. The God who does not waver. The God who does not falter. The God who is victorious.
Too often we forget how awesome a trip was. Even more often we forget how awesome God is. I’m disappointed I don’t have a beautiful authentic souvenir from Jamaica. But what I’ve realized is that the greatest souvenirs from any experience are our memories.