You can take the boy out of Wisconsin, but you cannot take the Wisconsin out of the boy, and so I find myself in Oklahoma and feeling those Wisconsin instincts tugging on my heart. The Wisconsin roots run deep in my life and extend beyond just following the hometown sports teams. While the Green Bay Packer paraphernalia around my house only externally hints of love for Wisconsin, it is really only the tip of the iceberg of internal longing for the lifestyle and activities enjoyed during summertime in the Dairy State.
I grew up like any kid, enjoying every moment of the brief summer warmth outside as much as possible: playing sports with friends, grilling out and going to the cabin up north with my family. But there is one activity that I have always held in its own echelon of summer activities: boating. Whether fishing, sailing, waterskiing or just cruising, I have always enjoyed being out on the water more than anything; the wind blowing my hair, the gentle rock of the boat and freedom to just glide across the water at will – plus it was always very social.
This past week was the Tulsa Boat Show, and so, of course, I had to go look at the newest models of all of my favorite manufacturers and talk to the salesmen about the newest trends in the boating industry. The expo has everything ranging from small aluminum dinghies to 70-foot yachts, fishing boats to ski boats to cruisers and everything in between; it was like living in a boating dream. The biggest difference this year, however, was that unlike most years where I have always thought wouldn’t it be nice someday I caught myself thinking hey, maybe this could work. I found myself rationalizing that maybe, just maybe, this could be a good thing to have for the summer if I found something I liked. Big mistake.
Immediately, the wheels started spinning in my head and within minutes it went from not just do I really want a boat to how much boat can I get? I talked to a salesman about financing options, going through quick payment math in my head and weighing various budget scenarios to fit in an extra few feet or bonus upgrade options. I imagined myself towing the boat behind my truck, taking it up to Wisconsin to really enjoy boating as it should be done; I imagined the parties and people having a great time out on the lakes in Oklahoma; and worst of all, I imagined the approval from my friends and self-satisfaction of showing people how well I thought I must be doing, no matter how thinly stretched a purchase like this would make me. Oh how selfish I was, thinking about how I could work it into a conversation, not only that I was thinking about buying a boat, but that I went ahead and did it on a whim – that I didn’t even care – living out the two most well know adages of boating I know all at once: that BOAT stands for Bring Out Another Thousand and that if you have to ask what it costs, you cannot afford it. I needed to leave the show, fast.
After walking around for a little while I eventually went home; I did not buy a boat, but I told myself to think about it and pray about it. It’s hard to ask God about making a big purchase – I didn’t really even know how to start. It was almost embarrassing because I knew what I was thinking about and what my motivations were. My prayer started like this: Dear God, why is it that I desire a boat more than I desire you? God’s power immediately struck my pride like a prize fighting boxer and my heart fell to my stomach. I was ashamed in His presence that I could imagine a world where my happiness and desires were considered met based on approval and pride; that I stand before the God of the universe asking if I should buy a boat, not to conquer the fear of rejection that I was trying to mask in the first place. I was praying for makeup to cure skin cancer.
I repented and prayed for forgiveness, and loved God for loving me. I had coveted the boat and made approval from peers a heart idol, and let love-of-myself direct my life, rather than love of Christ. Afterwards, I thought about Ecclesiastes and what David tells us about wealth and status, and ultimately how God judges our heart. Specifically Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 and 12:13-14:
“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon humankind: those to whom God gives wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing of all that they desire, yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous ill.”
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Ultimately, I feared judgment by my friends, or even strangers, more than I did the judgment of God. My relationship between my pride and my friends took center stage and when I went before God I wanted to hide my intentions. God commands us not to covet, and yet here I stood in defiance of his commandments, wondering why I felt confused about whether or not to buy a boat to ultimately impress my friends; I did not know my own intentions initially, but once sin grabbed hold, I wanted it even more.
Does God want me to buy a boat? I think the short answer is yes, but not today; the long answer has many caveats. What God wants even more than for me to buy a boat is my heart. He wants me to desire Him, and Him alone; to not covet. Having a boat and enjoying myself is something good, goodness that by itself God created and would be a gift from Him. However, when I make that desire for a boat greater than my own desire for God, I am keeping myself in the throne of my life to advance my own kingdom and name, rather than the Kingdom of Heaven.
For now, I am content with whatever the summer holds – boat not included.
What is the “boat” in your life? What thing, person or desire are you putting ahead of God in your heart?
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