Three times in the past six months I’ve gone to Colorado to rest.
Twice to the Ritz Carlton in Vail and the third time with my family to a friend’s beautiful vacation home.
All for free, all lavish gifts, donated by very generous people who value non-profit work and who could maybe sense that I was burning out.
When I first walked into the gorgeous room in Vail with a spectacular snowy mountain view, I burst into tears. I laid down on the bed and sobbed until I couldn’t cry any more.
I was treated like royalty with presents and massages and amazing food.
I didn’t deserve a bit of it. But I enjoyed every second.
So when I heard some Christians in my fringe community learned about my trips, they said, “Well, that must be nice.”
The words stung.
Because they didn’t feel nice at all.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t advertise that I sit in a hot tub on my back porch nearly every night of the week, trying to relax and alleviate chronic neck pain, trying not to overthink the next challenge or go into full-blown panic mode from this heavy-burden carrying. Until today, I’ve mostly hid this secret luxury because I don’t want to justify it.
It’s funny because when my family gave away nearly every extra dime we made in the first four years of this yes, and spent nearly every weeknight and weekend running Mercy House often in tears and with great fear, not one person said, “Well, that must be nice.”
When we are jealous of what people get but not what they give, we tend to scrutinize and criticize.
I’ve been on both ends and neither feels great.
I’m cracking the door open to my heart and letting you in a little more—not so you will feel pity for me (oh my, please don’t!) but so that we can learn and heal together.
It makes me wonder if maybe some people don’t know that I lay awake at night begging God to help us maintain Fair Trade Friday because thousands of women around the globe depend on it and that I don’t actually make a dime working for Mercy House?
Maybe they don’t know that my husband took a significant pay cut to lead our non-profit and that I write books and put ads on my blog because it offsets his sacrifice?
Maybe they don’t know that if I want a full nights sleep, I have to take a sleep-aid or this related fact: I’m reading a book called Trauma Stewardship because I don’t always know how to compartmentalize everything I’ve seen, heard or hold?
Maybe if people knew that it often takes me up to 8 hours while visiting Kenya to write a blog post and upload pictures with poor internet after sitting in traffic for 3 hours one way, they would wouldn’t call my trips to Kenya a vacation?
Maybe we shouldn’t care about what people get more than we care about what they give.
Maybe we should just care about people more.
It must be nice. I’ve heard it when pastors take sabbaticals and teachers get amazing end-of-the-year gifts and non-profit leaders get new cars and cancer survivors get free trips and about stay at home moms who “don’t work” and full time working moms who get “breaks from their kids.”
Recently, someone told me I shouldn’t complain about being tired because I was living the life many people dreamed of pursuing.
For some reason, the words didn’t make me feel any more rested.
What in the world is wrong with us?
No wonder the world looks at us from the sidelines confused and wary as we attack our own. And if they do something we don’t agree with, they don’t stand a chance.
We are experts at banishing and boycotting. Loving others doesn’t mean we have to agree with culture. It means that when we don’t agree, we are still kind and gracious. Mostly, it means we look like Jesus.
Jesus was a friend to sinners. In the Gospels, we see him pursuing those who broke the rules. He loved sinners, spent time with them and showed them compassion at every turn. He gave grace to sinners and held his judgment and hard words for the religious. I’m pretty sure there’s a really important lesson there.
Maybe it’s time for The Church to stop saying, that must be nice and instead say, how nice for you.
How nice that God sees you.
How nice that others do, too.
How nice that God uses people to encourage us when we are buried under a burden and just plain burned out.
How nice that you are getting a moment to catch your breath before you dive back in.
How nice that this gift might make you feel less alone.
I don’t want pity. And I definitely don’t want people to feel sorry for me. And honestly, I don’t want free things (unless it’s Colorado).
But when people, too often believers, try to make others feel bad for receiving something given in love, the problem is theirs, not ours.
Let’s be givers and not takers. Let’s be encouragers and not discouragers.
Let’s be happy for others because it’s great when people are happy for us.
I am grateful and I love this life.
Because it is nice.