Tuesday, July 5, 2011
A Lesson From Dr. Pepper.
When you are a new expat in a strange place far from home like I was last August, an import store can be just what you need to be your lifeline to the familiar land of America. Having those staples of an American diet like block cheese, popcorn, and Dr. Pepper can really energize you when you’ve gone weeks staring at grocery items like odorous raw squids and whole aisles of various tofu products. We have an import store about a 15-minute bike ride away called Yamaya where we can get all of the aforementioned American items just about any time we have a craving for them . . . or so I thought. Last week I waltzed in and strolled over to the beverage aisle to realize that there weren’t any Dr. Peppers on the shelf in their usual spot. In fact, the place where they go on the shelf was completely gone! Will they ever return? I don’t know, but I sure hope they do. My favorite popcorn has been gone for three weeks and counting . . .
In reality, most of the American items you find at a typical Japanese import store are only there until the store decides to stop carrying them. You never know from one trip to the next if that one food item that really gets you through the rough times is even going to be there. I have learned to appreciate these American products while they are available to me, but I don’t take them for granted and I don’t foolishly believe they’ll always be available. Those are just the facts of life when it comes to imported items in Japan.
I think this was what Paul was getting at in his letter to the Philippians when he implored the Christians in Philippi to be content in whatever conditions they find themselves. Paul throughout his ministry had times in which he was treated well and was safe and had enough to eat and a warm place to lay his head. But he said he learned not to expect these things to be there forever; he knew that one night he could be dining at a rich man’s table and the next he could have to be lowered out a window in order to escape persecution. He knew the words of Job well when Job declared “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but no matter the circumstance, let the name of the Lord be blessed.”
I hope that I can take the lesson of the Dr. Peppers and apply it to my life in a broader sense. The things that the Lord gives to us are just things, no matter how nice they are and no matter how much you attach yourself to them. It’s best if we use them in a positive way to impact His kingdom, but even if we do they are still only temporary. We might enjoy them for a season, but we can’t expect any earthly thing to be there forever (nor should we). I have learned (and am still learning) to live with that reality. It really does free up your mind to care about more pressing matters and attach yourself to more important things in life.
Last year at this time, I owned two cars; now I own none. Last year I didn’t have a bicycle; now I have a great one. He gives; He takes away. Let the name of the Lord be blessed.