Chelsea and I made a quick trip to Asheville, North Carolina, this week to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. One of the places that people told us to visit while we were there was the Biltmore Estate. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to get tickets to visit the house and grounds and we weren't sure that we would be able to make it work this trip. Yesterday morning, however, we decided to drive into the estate to see how far we could get before we had to purchase a ticket. The answer is one mile. Even though it's another two miles to the house, that's where the ticket center is and there is no way to get further in without paying the entrance fee. We went into the ticket / visitor center and watched a short film about the Vanderbilts and the Biltmore Estate. As we were coming out of the little theater area, a man was standing there holding two tickets in his hand. As a couple of people passed him by he made the comment that you couldn't give these things away. Then, spying us, he came over and asked if we were buying tickets. Chelsea told him that we were thinking about it. He then informed us that he was a season pass holder and he had these two free tickets that would be expiring in two days that he couldn't use and was wondering if we would like to have them. Of course I said yes, and before we even realized what was happening, he handed me the tickets and disappeared. We reserved our entrance time to go through the mansion and ended up spending the rest of the day enjoying the beautiful Biltmore Estate.
As we walked around the grounds and toured the extravagant home, I couldn't help but feel a little out of place. I looked at the people around me, realizing that most of them had paid full price to enter, and felt a little like I didn't quite belong there. We had paid absolutely nothing, yet we were enjoying this beautiful place along with everyone else. And then it hit me. There's another place, more beautiful than the Biltmore Estate or anywhere else on earth for that matter. It's a place we want to go, yet none of us could ever afford the entrance ticket. Jesus is here, though, standing in our path, trying to give away free tickets. Like those people in front of Chelsea and me, most are simply passing Him by, thinking that it must be too good to be true. When we get there, we may feel a little out of place, realizing that we paid absolutely nothing, yet we're enjoying this place along with everyone else. But then we will suddenly realize that everyone around us has the same story. Everyone around us will be there because Jesus gave them a free ticket. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Won't you accept His gift today?