A few weeks ago my fiance, Jim, and I were driving through Jacksonville, and he begged to make a detour at the outdoor store REI. He's been an awfully good groom, patiently listening to me ramble on about colors, catering and dance floors, so I conceded that it'd be nice to take a break from white tulle and browse outdoor tools.
Recreational Equipment Inc. markets itself as the source for outdoor enthusiasts looking to stock up for canoeing the Amazon or camping in the Sahara. Every wall illustrates an adventure, and the clerks look like they've taken a quick detour from the Appalachian trail just to work for the day.
REI doesn't just sell products. They sell lifestyles. They sell dreams. The first time I visited the store with Jim, I had a small heart attack. He wandered the aisles, pointing out a "super lightweight intelligently engineered beverage holder designed to withstand severe elements" (a cup you can take camping) and "footwear designed for the eco-aquatic adventurer" (flip-flops). "Look at this tent!" he exclaimed, reading the specs on the label. "You could take it to the base of Everest or similarly harsh conditions!"
"Are you planning to visit Everest?" I asked, dubiously eying the $1,300 price tag and thinking to myself, "How is this any different from the tent you already have?"
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"Oh, no," he said. "But it'd be awesome to have one that could do that, right?"
This is the trick REI plays on your brain: wandering the aisles, one becomes convinced that the cup, flip-flops, tent or any other item you already own in your attic or garage is grossly inadequate for the adventurous lifestyle you have decided to lead as soon as you leave the store.
It can be fun to daydream -- Jim and I like to look at items that we could use on a dozen possible adventures: kayaks, hiking shoes, camping stoves, lightweight bicycles and meals that cook themselves in the bags they are sold in. However, after making a lap or two, Jim will pick out a hat on clearance or a new inner tube for his bike and is ready to go. "This tent is actually just like what I already have at home," he'll sheepishly admit.
Sometimes I approach my spirituality like Jim in REI. I look at what other people are doing and think, "If I had as much time as those retirees in town, I'd volunteer regularly at the thrift store." Or, "If I knew the Bible like my pastor does, I'd read it more." Or, "Look at my doctor, always going to South America to give vaccinations to children. Someday I'm going to go to medical school and then do the same thing."
Maybe you've experienced this too: the feeling that you just don't have the time, tools, gifts or experience to take the next step in your spiritual life.
Maybe you don't. Jim certainly wouldn't attempt a weekend camping trip without his tent and basic knowledge of bears and how to start a fire. However, at the end of a trip to REI, he knows that while it'd be nice to have a tent that could be brought to the base of Everest, he can work with what he's got and have a great time camping at a local state park.
In the same way, only we can examine our hearts and discern if we're being called to take a step out in faith -- to give more, learn more, do more, be more. Others may seem better equipped, but don't doubt that if God is calling you to more He's already given you all you need. Daydreaming is fun, but don't get lost in dreams and miss out on doing.