a high mountain - a deep desert canyon
We live in a very beautiful home set in the midst of the vast desert of the Coachella valley. We are surrounded by mountains and are treated daily to the most beautiful nature sights one could ever imagine; and yet, by some standards, our home is rather modest- certainly modest when compared with some of the incredibly elegant desert resort estates that are not all that far away from where we live.
Almost every day, my wife and I drive by one especially stunning resort just a few miles away from our home. It is surrounded by a protective wall - gates and guards. You can peer a bit beyond the gate and, from a distance look into the estate with its stately mansion-like homes, lemon and orange groves, a man-made lake, fountains and flowing streams, a lush green golf course - all this in the middle of a dry, hot desert.
One day, not so long ago we drove up to the guard at the estate entrance and asked if we might just drive around to get a better, close-up look. We were promptly turned away - "Sorry, members only."
I had a visceral response to being kept outside the gate looking in. I had a gut-level experience of the great divide that exists between the "one-percenters" and the rest of us "poor slobs." As I sat in my car prohibited from entering into the land of the "rich and famous," I thought about some of the teachings and the parables of Jesus who talked about a "great chasm" between those who "have" and those who "have not."
Living here in a desert of mountains and canyons, you are reminded daily of deep chasms and great divides. As I sat outside the gates of those resort estates, I felt that deep chasm between me and those who were on the other side, and I didn't at all like being numbered among those who "have-not."
But then, only last week, I had an experience of what it is like to be on the other side of the great divide.
If you drive 30 or 40 minutes east of the beautiful gated estates, you find yourself in a part of the desert that seems hardly habitable - and yet many people live there. By and large, these people are Mexican immigrants (the border is only an hour or so away), many are illegal, many are migrant farm workers. They live in shacks and trailers in the triple digit desert sun, barely able to squeak out an existence.
There actually is a desert lake near to where these folks live, but this lake is polluted and it is filled with poisoned fish. Nonetheless, every day you can see the folks with their hooks and poles standing along the shore, pulling in the poisoned fish as the entree for the family supper -making a choice between getting sick from poisoned fish or going to bed hungry that night.
Last week, as we were driving through this decimated, desolated community, I also had a visceral sense of the "great divide" and the "deep chasm" - the "haves" on one side and the "have-nots" on the other. Only this time I was on the side of the "haves" looking out at the "have nots" who stood longingly looking at me on the other side of the gate.
When Jesus talked about the deep chasm, he also taught about filling it in - turning life into a level plain for everyone, where there are no chasms that divide and no gates to keep people out.
I often wonder how to do that.
I ask myself, "What on earth can I possibly do with my one little life that can have even a slight effect on filling in the great divide?" And I always come up with basically the same answer, "When you stand at the cliffs of the great divide, vow again to live your own life with greater generosity and re-commit yourself to a greater practice of compassion."
When I see the great divide and stand at the cliffs of the deep chasm, I commit again to be a person with an open-gated life - to share the resources I have, to share my gifts and talents rather than horde and protect them, to look for the places in life where I can live sacrificially and give myself for the welfare of others."
When I try to intentionally live an open-hearted life of generosity, maybe the locked gates are opened just a crack, and a pebble or two falls into the canyon leveling out the great divide.
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