Last week was heartbreakingly crazy, no? First Boston, then West, and all kinds of un-newsworthy madness in between.
West is a special place for me because when we were college sweethearts, Michael and I would drive there from Waco to go dancing. Specifically, kicker dancing at the West Fraternal Auditorium (which has since closed) because it wasn’t quite as skanky or smoky as Melody Ranch (which is now a Tejano bar). Never mind that I two-stepped in my tasseled Etienne Aigner loafers instead of real boots. I was a Collins girl. Those familiar with Baylor are now rolling their eyes. I didn’t own my first pair of boots until last year, which I have worn exactly one time. Also? I pronounced the name of my shoes Agner until somewhere close to 2003. That’s my mom’s fault.
None of this has anything to do with West. It has slightly more than nothing to do with this week’s chapter from The 7 Experiment: Possessions.
For this two week fast, I went room-to-room through my house and purged as much as I could. I didn’t set a number because I can’t count that high. Nothing was safe. Shockingly, we still had stuff to purge, even after moving three times in five years and doing a major clean-out each time.
I vividly remember when I was growing up, my mother would walk into a room and screech, “I CAN’T STAND ALL THIS CLUTTER!”—and then she would count (while pointing out) the number of shoes I had scattered over two rooms and threaten tremendous bodily harm if I did not get them put away within 3.7 seconds. Sheesh, woman. Chill out and gag me with a spoon.
You know where this is going, right? We can’t avoid it. We can’t prevent it. No matter how we fight it, WE WILL TURN INTO OUR MOTHERS. So here I am, screeching about shoes and clutter and worthless crap that is taking up space and attracting dust. I want it GONE. All of it. I went through every drawer and cabinet, every closet, every shelf, and if I hadn’t used it in the last year, it got the axe.
It was exhilarating. No second guessing, no regrets. Just chunkage of the crappage. I loved it.
I kept thinking of this clip from Harry Potter. (Seriously, you gotta watch it.)
(Did you watch it? No? I’m going to sit here until you do. I swear I will. I invented stubborn. Go on, then. It’s like a minute and a half. Watch it. Please.)
All my stuff, all these superfluous possessions are just like Devil’s Snare. They wrap themselves around my limbs, choke me, immobilize me, keep me from continuing The Quest and finding the treasure. And I don’t even realize it. In fact, instead of freeing myself from it, I keep accumulating more. Like Ron (bless him), I keep struggling against it and allowing myself to become more and more entangled. That’s just pathetic.
Let’s name it for what it is: more to manage, more to maintain, more to keep track of, more to clean—which obviously, I don’t do well. I didn’t remember getting half this stuff. If I don’t even know I have it, how am I going to use it? What is its purpose?
Whether we realize it or not, our stuff holds power over us. And, oddly, the more we have, the more we think we need. The more we want. It’s never enough. And that kind of imprisonment keeps us from seeing clearly, from having a broad perspective of who we are, who God is, why He entrusts us with so much, how He wants us to use it. It keeps us from recognizing our true treasure.
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:19-24)
These passages are sequential. Why? At first glance, one has nothing to do with the other two. But look closely at what Jen Hatmaker points out.
Treasure —> heart —> self-deception —> enslavement
What we treasure steers our hearts. Our hearts (the “eye” through which light flows) are either full of light or full of darkness, depending on what we treasure. What is in our hearts is either good (literally, “generous”), which leads to light, or they can be bad (opposite of generous; selfish, greedy). I’ll gander a guess, in the context of the next verse, and conclude that loving money and false treasure is “bad.” It clouds the window of our hearts so we cannot discern what is light and what is darkness.
“If the light within me is actually darkness, oh how deep that darkness is.”
Hence, enslavement. If we treasure that which will either rot or be stolen, the accompanying fear and darkness keep us locked up. This is not only about accumulating stuff, but also about keeping stuff. What are we so afraid of? That we will need it? That we will miss it? That at some baby shower fifteen years from now, we won’t be able to find an alternative? Or that our pretty things reflect our value and make a good impression on those who come into our homes? Do we hold on to things so we will be loved? Smells like darkness to me.
But light? Light is generosity. Light is freedom. Light is life. Light loosens the grip of the Devil’s Snare.
I love what Jen Hatmaker says about this:
The more openhanded I became with my stuff, the less power they had over me. A brightness truly began flooding some dark recesses of my heart, ugly places where I wanted to protect my things, shelter my safety net, and harbor my justifications. It was like magic.
And while Jesus insists that we pick a team—God or money—grace allows us to yield ourselves to him one step at a time. It is
a thousand little moments, thousands of small decisions that bit by bit, choice by choice, slowly draw us under the leadership of the correct Master. When you purge your closets and give to a struggling family…that counts. When you skip those new shoes and sponsor a child with that money…that counts. When you help fund your friend’s adoption in some small way…that counts. When you spend more energy on people than decorating…that counts. When you give, share, contribute, provide for someone else…that counts.
Our cleaned-out clothes (and those of my fellow Thursday night Experimenters) are going to a homeless ministry downtown and to a clothing closet that provides clothes for homeless high school students. (Yes. They exist. Even in suburbia.) Some of my kitchen things—baking dishes, utensils, storage containers—will go into the kitchen of a homeless high school senior who is getting her first apartment. The rest of my not-treasures will be sold at a garage sale this weekend to fund Meghan’s work at a Vietnamese orphanage this summer. If anything is left over, it will not come back into my house. Be gone, Devil’s Snare! Lumos!
…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the crap that so easily entangles. (Hebrews 12:1. Sorta.) Do it. Open up one cabinet. Evaluate. Re-evaluate. Put something in a box and find someone who needs it. Repeat.
Feels good, huh?
Have enough for a garage sale? Use the proceeds to do something meaningful, not just buy more stuff. Check out GarageSale4Orphans. Sponsor a child. Donate the cash to any worthy organization who stands up for the most vulnerable and neglected. Turn your trash into true treasure, a treasure that will last, that rust and moth cannot destroy, that cannot be stolen. Ever.
How about you? What did you learn from Possessions Week?
Get ready. The next fast involves media. This is gonna hurt…