Full House

If there was ever an earthly metaphor for fullness of life, Atlantic City, NJ fits the description. Husband and I caught the last flight into Philadelphia and the last train to Atlantic City for a few days of living high (HAHA, in budgeted luxury), and so I could present a conference workshop.

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I was a little nervous about the trip. I’m not a gambler, and I don’t believe in luck. But what if I became swept up in the allure of fast money and blew up our budget? Or what if husband got carried away? He likes to gamble, and infamously told me before his last Vegas trip: “If I win big, you’re getting a big ring. If I lose big, well, you get a diamond chip.” I thought he was joking; we had barely discussed marriage. He proposed two months later with a beautiful ring.

Would we be able to walk away? At what point would we cut ourselves off from the free drinks? Could we find anything to do in AC besides gamble?

Would we be okay living in this worldly house for a few days?

Short answer: We were fine. We gave most of the money we budgeted to the casino; no surprises there. But we could afford that entertainment. We treated ourselves to some nice meals and balanced those calories out by walking about six miles each day around the Tropicana, Caesar’s Palace, the boardwalk and the beach. We didn’t shop, except for a couple small souvenirs for friends at home. We slept in and took naps, but checked in to stay on top of work. My presentation went well. Overall, it was a successful little vacation.

The trip, and the chance to gamble and live it up, also gave us a reason to discuss how we’d like to spend our discretionary funds. I plan out almost every purchase I make, even fun little luxuries. Husband, however, simply makes sure his bank account doesn’t reach zero. (Drives me batty.) Knowing we were going somewhere where big spending is not only possible, but likely, forced us to talk through our individual ideas for a vacation budget and reach an agreement that satisfied my need for restraint and his need to let loose. Over the course of a few discussions in the car, during dinner, and while walking the dogs, we agreed on a range for meals, the hotel, and incidentals like snacks or souvenirs. We agreed that because he doesn’t mind throwing down money to gamble, but I do, gambling money would only come out of our regular monthly personal budgets. (Which he saved for a couple months to afford his desired betting reserve.) Other couples might handle vacation expenses differently, but this system worked for us.

Prior to the weekend, I was reading and absorbing the end of Colossians 1 and the beginning of Colossians 2. The word “full,” and variants on the idea of fullness, struck me:

I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regards to Christ’s afflictions. (NIV)

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness. (NIV)

This is God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth. (MSG)

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (NIV)

My goal is that they may be encouraged … So that they may have the full riches of complete understanding. (NIV)

I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. (MSG)

All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. (MSG)

Timing is everything, and these words could not have been laid before me at a better time. Atlantic City offered materialism, sensory fullness, and pleasures of the flesh beyond anything I’ve seen. Every sight held a structure or scene that was so colorful and so alive that it was a caricature of real life. If one row of blinking slot machines is good, 150 rows must be better. If it’s nice having music on the boardwalk, it’s obviously better to have a fake DJ spinning an “impromptu” dance party through massive building speakers as you stroll by.

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The city has built a fabulous tapestry of lushness was that truly was fun to live in for a couple days.

Once the blizzard passed, we enjoyed the change of scenery in Atlantic City: the imposing hotel towers, the bright patterned carpets of the resorts, the themed restaurants in every casino. I enjoyed being awed by the grand lobbies, the art, and the vast array of slot machine themes. Husband won a few hundred dollars from the gigantic Britney Spears slot machine. It played “You Drive Me Crazy” when you won a payout.

In the end, though, we both felt a need to go home, and to go back to our daily work, and back to a faith that isn’t a gamble. Christ gives us all we need for high living. We are closer to being full, whole, mature, and rich when we accept Him and welcome his influence over our life. “Luck” or believing “it’s our day” seems weak when you compare those concepts to the depth and reassurance a life rooted in faith offers.

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A kind woman with whom we played blackjack gave me tips as we played and promised that I’d become a more savvy player, and maybe take home some winnings, with experience.

But we gain richer wisdom than anything this world can offer as experience or knowledge when we go back to the Word and become savvy to the life He calls us to.  I am reminded more and more that His way will always trump mine, and His house is better than thousands elsewhere.

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We’ll probably go back to AC for another vacation someday. We had a good time! But we both agree: Living in our house is better.

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