“I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God’s hands I still possess.” Martin Luther.
I did something this past week that just a few short years ago I could have never envisioned myself doing. I emptied my house of everything and sent about 90% of it off to be sold. Our house closes any moment, Lord willing.This is a huge step in the journey of moving our family over to Ethiopia to be part of building the Kingdom by investing our lives in the lives of street kids. This was the one step that I was most apprehensive about, because I knew that it would hurt. It was a battle this past week - a battle in my heart, soul, and mind, as I fingered many of my possessions for the last time and the memories bathed me in bitter-sweetness. I wrestled with God some moments. I wondered why He had chosen us for this journey. He calls each of us to something different, and I begrudgingly at times wondered why He chose me for this. He knows me. Sentimental me - the one who saves everything that a memory is attached to, the one who tears up over a scribbled note or walking into my candle-lit home seeing my four children snuggled together on the couch. The one who clings to traditions and spent hours cooking and baking in my kitchen and years making my home a safe haven for my family. The one who found her identity for so long in being a homemaker and a mommy in that house. I understand better now why the rich young ruler walked away sorrowful. (Mark 10:17-31) God knows that about me. He knew that this sacrifice would be personal and hard. The very best sacrifices are. God's ultimate sacrifice was so personal - He gave up His Son.
I am certain of this call on our life. I know that God wants our family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I can confidently look back over my life and see how He has been nudging us in this direction for years. But to say that the journey is an easy task is a lie, or to say that the enemy doesn't try to deceive us and make us doubt these choices is a lie as well. We could have done things differently. We could have secured a safety net and a back-up plan by storing our belongings in case things don't work out in Ethiopia, but when Jesus asked us to follow Him, to invest in the Kingdom, He didn't ask us to hold back "just in case". He asked for it all. It is imperative that if we choose to live this life that He has asked of us that we live it with abandon - holding nothing back. If we say that we are willing to forsake everything for Jesus, then we actually have to live that way. Following Jesus must have a practical outworking, and this is ours. To some it will look foolish. To some it will look brave. To some it will look radical. But our eyes are straining to focus only on Jesus and what it looks like to Him. I pray that it looks like surrender.
This week as I went through years worth of material goods, I realized what bondage I have been in because of these possessions. Now, again, this is very personal, this is my heart issue that God had to weed out of me, and He works with each of us individually. Your journey and call may look very, very differently than mine. But for me, my possessions had imprisoned me. My stuff had held me captive. I realized that I was firmly planted in a place on this earth and unwilling to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth because I was holding onto my material property. It kept me rooted and stuck. For so long I have been deceived into worshiping at the alter of materialism. My house, my things, my money were more security to me than my Jesus.With the impending sale of our house, with getting out of a monthly mortgage, and the selling of the majority of our belongings, there is less that holds me captive in one spot. For the first time in my life, I feel free. I realized just how much of my heart and my treasures were captivated by things - they had taken over the place in my heart that should have been reserved only for my God.
It really wasn't the stuff that was the real problem,but it truly was the position that it occupied in my heart. I have never been wealthy, and to some my possessions were small, but I learned that I didn't have to be rich with a mansion of belongings to have made them my idol. However, through this painful process, I have learned that I possess something far greater than any of the possessions that I was clinging to - I possess the Kingdom. When the man in Matthew finds the treasure of the Kingdom, he RUNS in JOY in order to sell everything that he owns to buy the field where the treasure - the Kingdom- is buried. (Matthew 14:44-46) I have a relationship with Jesus and the greatness of knowing Him and being identified with Him and adopted by my Daddy in heaven. I have an eternal inheritance that continues to build in heaven as I build into the Kingdom - treasures that this world cannot destroy, that will never lose value or disappear. My citizenship is in heaven and isn't found in a country or a house. I am secure. I am safe. And neither of those has anything to do with where I live or what I own here on earth.
Everything I have and everything I am is all His - all He asks is that we give our lives away for the sake of the Kingdom. That we surrender that which has captivated our attention. It's bittersweet surrender - surrender that is personal, painful, and costly. But a bittersweet surrender that pales in comparison to what waits for us in eternity.
"The cost of the Kingdom is everything, but in comparison to the treasure we receive in return, all that we have in this life is worthless and empty." -Keith Gieles