By now, you’ve read the sad news about three sweat-lodge deaths in Arizona.
As sad as this story is, for me, there’s a greater sadness: that weekends with James Arthur Ray could cost as much as $9000.
Now, that’s a lot of money to spend for a sweat-lodge weekend in quest of spiritual and financial enlightenment.
Anyone who could spend 9 grand for a weekend doesn’t need any more dough.
One Ray client noted, her sweat-lodge weekend helped her conquer claustrophobia, and that’s good, but for 9 grand?
The sweat-lodge traditions of Native Americans provide a profound experience, and I’m confident that our Native American brothers and sisters would provide just such an experience for a whole lot less with a whole lot more insight and power.
But here’s my thought: people are desperate to find what’s seemingly missing from their life.
Whether it be pilgrims to a shrine or folks shelling out 9 grand for a sweat-lodge weekend, folks are desperate.
Two things I try to keep in mind:
- God creates empty spaces in our lives.
- And the moment we fill a space, God creates another.
Empty spaces are positive, good and energizing.
Empty spaces keep us on our toes and push us onward, as with Paul, striving for the upward calling of Christ.
Empty spaces keep us inventive and humble.
As I read the gospel, we can fill some of these spaces with prayer and study, kindly deeds, just causes and a simple appreciation of good food and drink and friends and family and blue skies and crashing waves and frost-on-the-pumpkin and winter’s first snow-fall and the cry of a hawk riding the winds and a beaver building a lodge and artists and builders and engineers and doctors and nurses and police officers and fire fighters and bumble bees and ants on the sidewalk heading off to work and little children playing on the beach and opera and symphony and jazz and drama and tap water and tall buildings and forests and fields and poetry and love and laughter and grandparents and dogs and cats and gerbils and old friends and a new pair of shoes … and the list goes on.
Most of this costs nothing but a little time to pay attention.
The rest can be had for far less than 9 grand.
Pray for folks who are so desperate.
And pray that we who are the church of Jesus Christ will get our act together so that we really have something for the empty spaces in life, and a message about the value and importance of empty spaces, filled and unfilled.
And to have a gospel that reminds folks that charlatans and cheats and frauds and spellbinders and fast-talkers have always played loose and free with our empty spaces.
Only love can fill those spaces, and love isn’t expensive, though it’s utterly costly.
And when we’ve filled one space, God sees to it that another takes it’s place, because it’s those empty spaces that hold great promise for truly finding ourselves, the God who made us, the Christ who gave up his life for us, and the Holy Spirit blowing fresh wind to awaken our deepest longings for fellowship with God and love for one another.