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Who needs God when you have all of this?

Who needs God when you have all of this?
 

Enchanted Gardens

It was March 1st, 1997.  I had just said, “I do!” to Naomi, who was now my wife.  It was an amazing day filled with family, loved ones and great friends.  Just as special, was our next day walking to our terminal at the airport.  See, being the hopeless romantic I decided to surprise my wife with a special honeymoon in the Caribbean, specifically Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  Not until we walked up to our gate did she know where we were heading.

As we sat, Naomi was out of her mind excited after having just learned where we were spending the next seven days.  Then the call came, “It is now time for first class to board!”  I jumped out of my seat and said, “That’s us.”  Naomi said, “Yeah right.”  No, seriously, I booked first class tickets.  If she wasn’t already hooked, which she was, she had to be after this moment.  Once on the plane I pulled out brochures to show her our destination, the Enchanted Gardens.

Enchanted Gardens was a five star all inclusive resort located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  The resort boasted of having more than 20 natural waterfalls on their property and was considered one of the top paradise destinations in the Caribbean.  It was amazing!  Not long after arriving to the resort, a host gave Naomi and I a basic tour of the property.  After having seen our third set of waterfalls, Naomi looked at me and said, “It’s amazing what God can make.”  No sooner did she finish her statement, when the host blurted out, “Who needs god, when you have all of this?”  It was a striking perspective that seemed to foreign to me in the moment.

Below is a picture of one of the pools we enjoyed during our stay at the Enchanted Gardens.

gardenbefore

Over the past few months I have been wrestling with the concepts of prudence, faith and a civilized spiritual formation. While studying the interactions between these principles I came across a book entitled, Culture and the Death of God by Terry Eagleton. Not long into reading I was struck by how the enlightenment’s assault on religion, then, was at root a political rather than theological affair.  More importantly, the goal of the enlightenment was to oust a barbarian faith for a more civilized one.  In the end, “civilized” became the norm by which people lived, breathed and even pursued their faith.  It shaped a whole culture’s perspective on relationships, community, and God.

Moreover, when you’re immersed in such a culture, you’re hardly aware of its influence. In the same way that a fish doesn’t know that it’s wet, I might not fully known how a “civilized” faith has shaped my relationship with God and others. It prompted another question in me, “How does the civilized show up in our formation and that of our students?” The following are three potentials in moving:

Who needs god, when you have all of this?

1. Super becomes natural…

In a world where the super becomes the natural, a subtle yet distinct loss occurs in our need for the super natural or God.  When all is civilized, who needs God?  Though the natural world is powerful while reflecting its creator, it does not replace God.  Yet, for all of us, it’s quite easy to depend on the natural rather than the super.  Subtly we begin to trust in the church program to change people, rather than God.  Subtly we begin to believe our curriculum is irreplaceable, and that God could not work without it!  You get where I’m going.

2. Luxury becomes comfort…

That first day in Ocho Rios was amazing.  We climbed Dunn’s River Falls, kayaked in the Caribbean and snorkeled on a coral reef.  As a 24 year old, having traveled very little at this point, I was blown away.  18 years later, having traveled many places around the world, I no longer see the same luxury.  If I’m honest, what was then luxury is now simply comfort.  For most humans, the more we experience, a subtle numbing takes place which causes us to no longer see great gifts from God as luxury, but rather comfort necessities. When we provide every comfort imaginable to our students, I wonder if the very thing we use to attract, subtly lesson their overall need for God?

3. The Gardener is no longer needed…

When God is no longer needed, the gardener is told to go away.  From our souls.  From our marriages.  From our relationships.  From our student ministries.  When the super becomes natural and luxury becomes comfort, there is ultimately no longer a need for God.  In this silent admonition we shout to God , I’m good, I can take care of my own soul, as well as my relationship with others.  In this moment the Gardner is sent away.

A few months ago, Naomi and I were reminiscing about our honeymoon and the Enchanted Gardens.  After a quick Google search, I learned that during the financial collapse of 2008, the Enchanted Gardens fell into bankruptcy and has sat ownerless since that time.  Below is a current picture of the same pool from above which Naomi and I enjoyed on our honeymoon.  The gardener went away!

gardennow

Remember, who needs god, when you have all of this?

 

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. Tyler09-23-14

    civilized faith… interesting way to put it. Thanks for you insight Rick.

    • Richard_Rhoads09-23-14

      You’re welcome my friend… Sometimes we’re way to safe on how we approach our faith… Yet, faith is believing in that which doesn’t yet exist or not seen.. Thankful for you, Rick