The Fannie Mae (mortgage loan) advertisements on NPR run something like this, “As the American Dream grows, we grow.” And the American Dream would be . . . oh right, home ownership. To a certain degree this is an accurate statement, Americans want their own little chunk of land, that is why our ancestors came here in the first place, right?
Embedded in my mind is a line of dialogue from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou. One of the more sincere characters who lacks common sense makes a very serious statement, “You ain’t no kind of man if you don’t have land.”
Ownership is important to us. We like owning things. Borrowing requires inconvenience, awkwardness, and interaction. It’s much easier to do our own thing in our own space at our own pace.
A neighbor of ours with river access lets us use it whenever we want, and it’s fantastic. We live practically next to a river, but don’t own access. While sitting with my feet in the water, writing away last week, I thought that it would be wonderful to have a house on the river.
God jumped in on my private conversation with myself, “Can’t you people enjoy something without owning it? Even if you paid for it, it’s really a temporary set up any way.” Oh, right. Sorry about that God.
I’ve been looking at Abraham in the Bible’s book of Genesis of late. Though a rich fellah, Abraham was forced to essentially wander in the land that God promised he would own. The narrative in Genesis emphasizes the presence of other nations while he wanders, the obvious flies in the land of milk and honey.
God was trying to teach Abe and consequently us a little lesson in ownership and the way “home” really works. The truth is that God wants his people to find their home, and therefore rest, in him and in his new creation that will be unveiled some day in the future.
Ownership is not wrong in itself, but accumulation quickly consumes our lives that are ruled by consumption. We lose track of who we are, where we are going, and what we truly can own.