Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Reminder to Hold Loosely

I like my stuff.

I sit here, in this room that has been “mine” for nearly 11 years. My closet is filled with clothes (more are in a tub under my bed) and with storage drawers stuffed with my college apartment kitchen items.

Two bookshelves hold rows and rows of books, as well as knick knacks. My windowsill holds more of the latter, as does another tub under my bed.

So much stuff.

And sometimes I can feel it weighing me down. But the thought of getting rid of it all feels too big and hard. Besides, I like it. And I may want/need it sometime.

Spending five months in Uganda and my plans to go back in September serve as a constant reminder that all this stuff can’t go with me everywhere. Especially at the end of time, when much of it and what it represents will simply burn (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

This morning I decided to work on a project that is fairly mindless: Making “refrigerator” birthday cards for my teacher-boss to use for her new students. I decided I may as well listen to an audio book while I did, so I finally opened a folder I had put on my desktop back in November—Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage

I’m not sure what I was expecting…..but I guess I wasn’t expecting what I got: what felt like a personalized message just for me. I identify with a lot of what the author, Allison Vesterfelt, talks about. I’ve only listened to about a third of the book, but I can tell it will join the {long} list of influential/favorite books in my life.

What happens when a 20-something gets urged by a friend to drop her outwardly good/perfect life and embark on a road trip journey to all 50 states?  I don’t want to spoil the book for you (because you should read it!), so I won’t tell you much of the answer to that. Hey, you can even get the audio book for free if you subscribe to Moody Collective’s email list! Go do it here, I’ll wait J

I will share with you a little bit about how, in light of the tension between my stuff and my plans for the next year and a half, God’s using this book in my life today.

Early on in her book, Vesterfelt offers up an interesting take on the parable of the rich young ruler that I found applicable and compelling in my current situation. As I listened, I remembered wrestling with a similar feeling last fall as I contemplated giving up/putting on hold my desire to get settled down into what American culture seems to advertise as the good life of working a regular, salaried job. {You can read my posts about thinking through that here and here.}

Vesterfelt suggests that perhaps the rich young ruler wasn’t just looking for self-affirmation. Maybe he came to Jesus asking what he needed to inherit eternal life because he felt the emptiness of the life he was living. Maybe he felt like something was missing, even in the midst of keeping the commandments Jesus listed off for him.

Perhaps, even though he was doing everything he knew to do—even though he had material blessings—perhaps his life still felt lacking. Maybe he wanted to know why, maybe he wanted to change that.

Jesus basically told him to give up his hold on his possessions, to come join Christ in His ministry, to be willing to travel light except for the weight of a cross (Mark 10:21). But the young man couldn’t bring himself to commit to that. The thought of the sacrifice was too great.

I don’t know if Vesterfelt’s interpretation of this parable is any more or less correct than the more traditional picture of an arrogant young man with a moral that can tend toward “don’t be rich.” But when I quit working and listening to go make lunch, a question kept weighing on the back of my mind:

Esther, are you willing to pack light? Are you willing to leave baggage—both material and emotional—behind? Are you willing to be soft clay? To continue being stretched and kneaded and molded?

And, at the root of it all, are you willing to trust Me with and for everything?

These questions aren’t just for the next 18 months. They’re not just about this next step of going back to Uganda. These are questions that must be answered and decisions to trust that must be made every moment of every day for the rest of my earthly life.

Because, as much as I wish it were otherwise, life simply doesn’t automatically fall into a super dependable, easy pattern just because I graduated from college. And yes, I see now just how silly that assumption was. But somehow that’s what I wanted and expected a year ago.

I could have made choices that would have been more likely to get me on that route. But I felt God calling me to a different adventure. I felt a tug on my heart to places I didn’t expect and things I don’t feel equipped for. I don’t have the answers of where my life’s ship is sailing. The end harbor that I desire most of all…that I know God will bring me to…is to become like Him, to bring Him glory through His work in my life—to know, to love, and to serve Him and His people.

What route will that take me on? What will be the midpoint destinations between here and there? I don’t feel like I have a clue.

And my soul can feel the fearfulness of that lack of the ability to control my destiny on my own. But as I stood in the kitchen, stirring tuna, noodles, and sauce…I knew there was only one answer. That despite the fear of what sacrifice that choice would ask, there was only one thing I desired with my deepest being.

Yes Lord. Take me and make me Thine. There is nothing else I truly want more. Thine be the glory.