She was a captivating, animated story teller, let me tell you, made better only by the accent she still carried from growing up in South Africa. We ate lunch together in Canada, where I was the guest speaker at a pastors’ wives retreat. She began one story with her move from Africa to Canada and how she sent all of her earthly possessions by way of barge.
But the barge sank in the ocean.
“I lost everything I owned that day –including my mother’s china and other items that were precious to me,” she said soberly.
My heart went out to her, as I imagined this great loss. Then she slapped the table in front of us and shouted, “Best thing that ever happened to me!” Her testimony was that in one day the Lord had freed her from the bondage to stuff. I will never forget the joy I saw in her eyes.
The preacher and I are on a new adventure. After long thought and much prayer, we have made the decision to move west.
West of town, that is.
We’re going to move in with Matt’s mom and aunt, so that we can better do chores for them, like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. (That’s our cover story. Really we want to be closer to what comes out of their kitchen. Shhh.)
So here we are in a 1700-square-foot house, with a large crawl space and shed full of stuff, and we’re going to squeeze down into a bedroom, office space, and shared crawl space.
I have my minimalist game face on, but I have to admit that even for me it’s painful getting rid of stuff. In Renovation of the Heart (a book I highly recommend for you to devour this year), Dallas Willard says:
Feelings live on the front row of our lives like unruly children clamoring for attention.
Yes, I find this to be true as I determine to get rid of most of our possessions. All of a sudden, I feel like I can’t live without them. I feel like my heart will break if I cut loose from items to which sweet memories are connected. I feel loss and pain when I fill the trunk and head to the thrift store.
But I am learning to be a better thinker.
Thinking trumps feeling. I think of that lady from Africa and what joy she experienced when the stuff was gone, even the very, very special stuff. She experienced freedom, and maybe freedom is a better feeling than the clutching, I-need-this-to-be-happy emotion that tethers me to stationary objects.
I think of the rich young ruler.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22 NIV)
This young man had feelings for his stuff that became a deal breaker in his ability to follow Christ.
So I have a few months of cleaning and packing and purging to do, and I have feelings. Wow do I have feelings –like when I gave my son’s bed to a friend? Tears. My baby’s bed! But it went out the front door, to be of use to people who needed it. Feelings be hanged.
Think, think, think.
Treasure in heaven. Give me that.
And you, my friend? If all your possessions were to sink on a barge one day, what would happen in your soul? I say let’s not wait for a barge or for the necessity to downsize. Open your car trunk and take boatloads of stuff to a thrift store where it can benefit the people in your community who could use it.
Note: You’ll need to buy noise-cancelling headphones, to drown out the tantrum your feelings are throwing.
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