Over the weekend, I saw an interview with a former coal miner who survived the monster tornadoes that raged throughout the south last week.
He shared that everything he had worked 50 years to accumulate was “gone in 30 seconds.”
30 seconds…and everything he owned was obliterated.
There was a time when hearing something like that would have sent a cold shiver of fear up my spine, but not so much anymore.
Over the past several months, I have gone from clutching my possessions and happily adding more… to holding them with an open hand…perfectly willing to let them go.
Clearly, that didn’t happen overnight.
Shortly after my husband’s job was cut, everywhere I turned, I heard the parable of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-26). This mystified me, because Jesus often speaks to me in themes. So, I know I needed to pay attention, but for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine why in the world He continued to highlight that particular portion of Scripture.
First of all, I certainly wasn’t rich. And I would have no trouble selling everything I owned and following Jesus if that is what He asked me to do.
Or would I?
Through a long process, Jesus opened my eyes to that fact that I was just like the rich young ruler in that I loved my possessions.
I wasn’t even fully aware of the fact that I had the “Jesus AND….” syndrome.
As long as I had Jesus AND my stuff, I was happy.
I had a consumer mindset. God had blessed us financially as Doug’s salary continued to increase. So, our lifestyle matched our salary. When we heard of a need that someone had, we did all we could to meet it…but in all honesty, our primary concern was our comfort. If we wanted something, we bought it. Our houses got bigger with each consecutive move and we continued to buy whatever we wanted.
Until the fat weekly paychecks stopped and the economy tanked.
Sometimes God will do whatever it takes to get our attention.
Two months later, a dear family friend died and I flew to Pennsylvania to attend her funeral. While I was there, I went to church with my mom. That morning, a missionary from Cambodia was speaking. He related the harrowing truth that several Vietnamese girls in that country are sold into the sex trade by their desperate families for $300. They then led a horrific life and were often dead of disease or suicide by the age of 25.
In response to this great evil, his organization started a school in that area for all children. Time has proven that when these girls are educated and taught a trade, their families no longer need to sell them in order to survive. The vicious cycle is stopped.
However, this work is almost entirely dependent on the giving of others.
With tears forming in his eyes, the missionary asked, “People of God, what are you doing with the resources He has given you? Do you spend it all on yourself…or do you give to a world that is in desperate need?”
I was rooted to my chair and my heart began to pound. I knew without a doubt that God was speaking to me. The light was beginning to go on.
On the plane ride home, I began to read Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan and by the time I finished that book, the light bulb had turned into a spotlight that God used to shine directly into my heart.
Truly, for the first time, I realized that none of what I had was mine.
It’s ALL His! All of it! (Ps. 24:1)
I am an owner of nothing.
I am simply a steward.
When I stand before Jesus at the end of my life, what will I have to show for how I handled the money that had been entrusted to me…a bunch of stuff that I left behind…or eternal souls that were helped through what I gave them?
It was as if a veil had been lifted and my eyes were opened to a world in desperate need. I discovered Compassion International and we began to sponsor a child. I read David Platt’s book, Radical which completely turned my world view upside down. I was filled with a strong desire to give all I could.
It was so ironic that I came to that realization when I hardly had anything to give; when I did have money to give, I spent most of it on myself.
Still, Jesus taught me that it is not the amount I have that matters…it is the desire and condition of my heart.
I looked around at all the stuff that I just had to have in my previous life…and it didn’t mean anything to me anymore. So, I began to give it away…a process I am still continuing to this day. Those things no longer have any hold on me
My eyes had fully been opened to my true treasures: a God who loves me and my precious family.
I need so much less than I thought I did.
There is so much freedom in that!
My heart is no longer wrapped up in the stuff of this world.
My heart is consumed with Jesus…who fills and overflows every empty place.
I desire to be His hands and feet in my corner of the world…giving as He directs me to give with HIS resources. My first thought is no longer, “What can I buy?” but “What can I give?”
So, if all my stuff was gone in 30 seconds, I would ultimately be okay…because my focus is much more on the eternal than the temporal.
And the joy is immense.
“There is nothing better than giving up everything and stepping into a passionate love relationship with God, the God of the universe who made galaxies, leaves, laughter, and me and you.”–Francis Chan