Saturday, July 21, 2007

keeping up with the johnsons

When we knocked on the door no one answered. They were home, but there was a vacuum humming above the soft doorbell. I peered inside through the vertically parallel window next to the door to see a large woman in a T-shirt intently pushing the Hoover over the same spot. It had been almost two years since my wedding when I met these people for the first and only time in my life, but I was sure this Hoover pusher was not Bridget Johnson. The Hoover woman looked menial and too content in her cleaning to live in the house that towered over us. No, the people who lived in this house surely had a housekeeper, and the housekeeper pushed a Hoover.

For the neighborhood in which it sat the house was fairly modest. Unfortunately, there was nothing modest about the neighborhood. Some of the most immaculate homes you see on MTV’s Cribs, or Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It seemed as though we were looking at the homes of royalty. Houses lived in by CEO’s, doctors, lawyers and bankers. The “For-Sale” signs outside of some of the homes in the neighborhood, made my rental house look like a depression era shanty. The Johnson’s home had a round-about drive which had an extra piece of pebble paved road that wrapped around the side of the house to a garage. The red brick house framed a white door neatly decorated with a hydrangea wreath. The house was only two stories, but it looked like four from the outside. On the inside it had multiple sets of stairs, a marble covered kitchen and a guest room bigger than most middle-class living rooms. Needless to say the it was a beautiful home, decorated with impeccable taste and complimented by a perfectly kept lawn and bright blue swimming pool in the backyard.

Rob is an oncologist and Bridget is a non-practicing nurse. They have two boys. Steven is the oldest at twenty-two. He begins medical school in the fall, after spending a year in China doing mission work. Nathan is roughly nineteen and just finished his freshman year at Vanderbilt University. He was the Valedictorian of his private high school. None of the Johnsons were snobby or snide or even the least bit pretentious. They were of course intelligent. Rob’s humor consists mostly of puns and he thinks like a doctor, precise and calculating. Bridget is delightful and chatty, though not overbearing or frivolous. Steven was not around for us to meet, but Nathan was kind and interesting. These immaculate people never ceased to amaze me.

It would have been more bearable if they weren’t such wonderful people. They invited us into their home, fed us, gave us our most comfortable bed of the summer and spent time getting to know us. We talked cordially about topics that divide families and churches. We spent an evening laughing together over a board game after an expensive dinner (which the Johnsons paid for without hesitation). They endured us the whole weekend from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Always hospitable, they made us feel at home in a place that seemed impossibly stuffy at first glance.

The only problem with the Johnsons is, of course, that they’re rich. They have “bought in.” They are a part of a system that I think is sick and ultimately against the will of God. They vote republican and think of George W. Bush in the friendliest of terms. I hate the money they have, I hate the Wii they play and most of all I hate their generosity. But in my better moments, I love the Johnsons. I love their example, I love their hospitality and I love their humility. I want to be a Johnson. I want to be generous and kind and interesting. I want to be more intelligent and have more money, and give it all up for the mission field. I tried so hard to find some reason to judge them, some flaw for which to loathe their pompous existence, but found only my prejudice. The Johnsons are rich, but they are Christians. They are the first Christians I have met who just happen to be rich. They have not spent their lives pursuing wealth. Johnson money goes toward kingdom purposes like missions, and giving to the Church. Also, the Johnson home is virtually a revolving door for church interns, missionaries and lowly Bible college students. I pray for more rich Christians to see the faithfulness of the Johnsons. I will also pray for repentance in my own judgmental soul.

Do I still think the Johnsons are part of a sick system? Yes, but so are all of us living in America. Unlike many of us who spend our time whining about the world and blaming everyone else the Johnsons are building the kingdom of God. Not with their ballot, but with their prayers. The Johnsons are using everything they have to worship Jesus as their king. God forgive me for judging them, for envying them, for my narcissism masked in my conception of “true religion.” God bless the Johnsons, and let God led us all to repentance and further faithfulness to him.


Andy Rodriguez said...

good words tyler. I hope all is going well for you. You really should update this thing more often. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

Unknown said...

Thanks bro. I will more when I have internet access daily. Right now with travel its difficult.

David G. Fish said...

So, what the Hoover pushing lady Bridget, or a maid?

I also enjoyed reading this post, and the more recent one about preaching/writing. But I could have done well without the B-word on the earlier post from Oklahoma. :)Blessings to you both!

Margo Jean Stewart said...

No, the hoover lady was the maid. Sorry, about the "b" word. I didn't mean to offend anyone.