Saturday, April 3, 2021

Fulfillment Center

New Amazon "Fulfillment Center"
North of Fargo, ND
 The March 31st, broadcast of Fresh Air featured an interview with a journalist and author, Alec MacGillis. His recent book is titled, "Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America." In listening I learned that Amazon has "Fulfillment Centers," not distribution centers or warehouses. What is in a name? A great deal, I believe.

Ever Given in Suez Canal
(Suez Canal Authority)

It was only days ago that a large container ship, the Ever Given, was dislodged from blocking the entire Suez Canal. The vessel is about 400 metres in length. Fully loaded it carries approximately 20,000 shipping containers. These are the same colorful containers that are seen on freight trains, pulled behind semi-tractors on Interstate Highways, and stacked at seaports. 

The Ever Given is only one of hundreds of container ships carrying items from one continent to another. The lines of semi-tractors at ports, as well as moving along highways seem endless.  Where are all of these products headed? You guessed it, "Fulfillment Centers." We want what we want when we want it! The supply chain better not break. I will not tolerate another toilet paper shortage. One click and two day delivery is a way of life. One click and I am fulfilled, Or am I? If I am fulfilled, why do I constantly click for more of the products flowing across the ocean?

Fulfillment according to is, "the state or quality of completion or realization." Completion? When do we sense our lives are complete? If Amazon had its best year in 2020, we are all clicking more than once to achieve fulfillment. More distribution centers are being built (the one pictured above has 1.3 million square feet), storage units are highly profitable as we need to warehouse stuff that is meant to satisfy us, and we panic when supply chains are weakened or cracked.  

It is the weekend when the majority of those following Christian traditions mark the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, it is Easter weekend. Yup, the time of ham dinners, egg hunts, online or in-person worship, and decorative baskets. It is a "holy time" when we again fill our lives, our stomachs, and our hours with stuff.  Jesus did say, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10.10  ESV). So, fulfillment must be achievable. What will it take to make that a reality?

It is revealing to me that New Testament resurrection accounts have no description of fullness. Those coming to the tomb are filled with disappointment, fear, and grief. What they experience is emptiness. The tomb is empty. Jesus even left the death shroud inside the tomb. Life cannot be realized in that which is full, whether it be a tomb, a container ship, a fulfillment center, or a storage unit. That manner of fullness leads to dissatisfaction, disappointment, anxiety, and death. Life is experienced by being empty. It is found in being liberated from all of the expectations, the desires, and the stuff. It is in rolling back the stone that ensnares and entombs us where we find the freedom to live. 

Fulfillment is not boxed in by walls nor carried in containers. Fulfillment is freedom to experience, explore, and live each day unencumbered!

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