Once, somewhere in a rickety Ugandan craft-shack, a concerned friend, with a penchant for economic efficiency, cautioned me not to ‘upset the market’ for future visitors. I had heeded his advice initially – quite reluctantly, I adopted the custom of bargaining from the inexpensive to the radically cheap. I watched as the craftswoman squirmed; I squirmed in return. The shillings I had shaved off meant a lot more to her than to me. Having paid pittance for my things, I broke: “Oh, keep the change!” To the dismay of my friend, the ‘change’ reversed all bargaining thereto. I may well have paid more in the end than the asking price.
Flash forward three years and I’m about to do another trade, only this time I am sitting alone on my bed. I am not doing well at all. I’m looking at my past, and I’m realising that I’m very different to how I thought I was – I’m much, much worse. I’m looking at my heart too, and I barely even recognise it. It’s chipped, cracked, scared, angry, anxious and full of sadness. God is telling me I need to give Him everything. I’m telling Him I have – I always have. He doesn’t agree.
I imagine there is a present in front of me; a gift, inside of which sits God’s whole will and purpose for my future life. Because Jesus is good, this is the best possible life; a fulfilment of every reason for which I was created; the biggest conceivable contribution I could make to the outcome of an extravagant cosmic plan, born of perfect love and perfect wisdom. This plan will see God and His created beings, living in breath-taking, invigorating, adventure-filled closeness, for all eternity. But what is really in the box? What if, opening it, I find failures, or poverty, or loneliness? What if I lose someone I love? What if I lose them all? Would I take the box yet still – knowing Who made it, and why and for what? With thing after thing, and tears streaming down my face, I decided: Whatever is in that box, I want it. I desperately want it. There is nothing more important.
I made the trade. And over the next few months, in concrete and tangible ways, the most extraordinary scene unravelled – the scandal of grace, the foolishness of the cross, the greatest possible upset to the free market. “Keep the change,” the Craftsman said, and I looked in my hands to find vastly, immeasurably, exceedingly more than I had handed over; more than I could even have comprehended having. Forgiveness so strong that I was perceived by a King as pure, and good, and pleasing; relationship so close that I would cry just at its beauty; confidence so assured, that I could approach the throne of an immensely powerful Being; love so deep that I almost, almost couldn’t think about it; life at its brimming maximum – adventure, insight, purpose, drive, joy, and an inexplicable love for humankind. Moreover, I looked at what I had given the Craftsman.
Not only did it look like rags and ashes, but it wasn’t ever mine. I had no currency in the free market – had earned nothing, deserved nothing and had nothing assured. What I had raged to keep and control was only what I had already given to the world – and the world had misused it, taking more than I’d offered and giving only brief, fleeting pleasures and colourless discontent in return. Finally, I looked at what this had all cost the Craftsman. His only Son. His beautiful, perfect, innocent Son.
The true, living God is a God of abundance. There are not enough superlatives to emphasise it. Seek Him and seek Him and seek Him. You will find exceedingly more. That is a promise – and it’s not mine.