Lessons from the Wasteland: It’s not about the swag

Published March 4, 2013 by joypatton

Recently we had a conversation with my oldest son about the possibility of cutting back on some of his activities because of time and money.  As we talked about his involvement in his travel baseball team, a major factor for playing on this team became apparent…the swag.  We have a team parent who is awesome at getting sponsorship for the kids and they get some pretty nice stuff.  Baseball bags, jackets, pants, Under Armour shirts and hats.  This team looks good wherever they go.  Connor looked at us and said, “You wouldn’t buy me a baseball bag that nice.”  He’s right; we wouldn’t.  So he was willing to sacrifice a lot of time and money to get the swag.

The truth is I like swag too.  I’m willing to give up a lot as long as I get some swag out of it.  As a Christian, I’ve gotten used to getting “swag” from God.  I’ve got a nice house in a quiet town.  I’ve got four beautiful, healthy, smart, talented kids, and a great husband who works really hard to support our family.  He has his own artist management company, and every day he goes to a job he loves doing, helping Christian artists.  We’ve had opportunities to serve at our church and use our gifts in the kingdom.  We are in good health and physically capable of doing a lot of things.  I’ve had people who have affirmed my spiritual gifts and given me many places to use them.  I’ve had the luxury of pursuing dreams and investing in people.

But happens when God messes with my “swag?”  What happens when the perks of being on God’s team disappear?  Will I still want to play on his team?  Will I still trust him to be my coach?  Have I been playing the Christian game just to get the swag?

In John 6, Jesus fed 5,ooo people in one sitting.  If you’ve ever tried to cook for a large group of people, you know what a miracle this is.  Of course, immediately his Klout score went up and his Twitter page was overwhelmed.  I mean, he had a lot of followers who decided to keep following Jesus.  They followed him overnight all the way to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  But soon the true motives for their dedication were revealed.  “You are seeking me not because saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)  They were following because they found a guy who could make bread, and they thought they would never have to work for bread again.  They wanted a bread machine, not true bread.  Later Jesus explains, “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  I am the bread of life.” (John 6:33,35)

I must confess that I often want Jesus to be my bread machine and fill my belly and make my life comfortable and easy.  I don’t want the bread he has to offer.  I don’t want to do the hard faith work of trusting, resting, abiding and believing.  I just want him to give me the swag.  And when the wasteland comes and all the perks disappear, I don’t think it’s so cool to follow him.  In fact, I throw a temper tantrum and refuse to follow until he gives me what I want.

But following Jesus and being on his “team” is not about the swag.  It’s not about how cool you look or how great your life becomes when you obey all his commands.  I don’t follow him because of the blessings or the miracles.  I follow him because he is God, and I am not.  He can make bread from nothing, and I can’t.  I follow because God gave his one and only Son to show how much he loved me.  He paid a debt he didn’t owe, so I could have an eternal life I don’t deserve.  He owes me nothing, and I owe him everything.  It’s not about the swag; it’s about following one step at a time.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for throwing a fit when some of my blessings fade.  When life gets hard and I’m uncomfortable, forgive me for not believing that you are all I need.  Forgive me for wanting to make you my personal bread machine.  Help me to be satisfied with true bread from heaven.  Help me follow you more closely.  Forever grateful, Your Princess.


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