As I pack up another box for a garage sale, I look around to see if I have made a dent in the amount of “stuff” I am trying to reduce. I seem to collect all kinds of things--sheep (statues only), books, snowmen (stuffed, of course), teacups, books, cats, kitchen utensils, old bottles, books, and blankets to name a few! Okay. I am NOT getting rid of the cats; they are family, but, really, how many blankets (throws, etc.) can one couch hold (at this point the number is five and counting).
I appreciate family history, and I display several precious items (those few remaining) which were “brought over” with my Irish ancestors many generations ago. They are meaningful and allow me to share both personal and historical background with my children and grandchildren. Those can stay (until, of course, they are passed on to the next generation). But all the other things?
I remember a story once told to me by a missionary who had served in India. You know those cute little monkeys we see in pictures with organ-grinders? Poor little things. Anyway, how they are caught is interesting. (There is a connection here; hang on). Small holes are drilled into gourds--just the right size for a little monkey hand to wiggle in. Next, peanuts or other desirable treats are placed in the gourds. These gourds are then situated in areas where the unsuspecting monkeys live. Being curious by nature, the monkey finds a gourd and wants the treat inside. What does he do?
He (or she, of course) pushes his hand into the gourd, finds the treat, and grabs it. When he tries to remove the prize, he cannot because his fist is too large to fit back through the hole. He refuses to let go and is easily caught since he only has one hand to use in an escape (the other, of course, is encumbered by the gourd). It doesn’t occur to the monkey that he could release the peanut, hit his prey on the head with the gourd (I added this part because that’s what I would do!), and swing away. No. He is caught because he won’t let go. Got it?
I think I am like that. My stuff weighs me down. However, I am discovering another truth in my journey with God and that is to learn to be grateful and satisfied with what I have. Paul uses the word content:
...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)
I once lived in a house with a large dining room, so I bought a large dining room set. Now that I live in a smaller house, my small dining room is wall-to-wall furniture. It is still lovely (mostly) and completely serviceable. Do I really need a different, smaller, dining room set? No. Do I want one (my fist is in the gourd here)? Yes. Am I going to buy one? No. I am learning.
My comments are not meant to induce guilt; women are nest-builders, and we love to create beautiful nests, right? God created us with this desire. In this country it is so easy to satisfy this desire, but I am talking about the “additions” we make to our nests which sometimes crowd out more important opportunities for our spiritual lives. Letting go of many of our “wants” allows us to be more flexible and have more financial resources to share (and support) with others. Can we be content in all things? It is a question worth asking ourselves.
Well, If you need anything, let me know. I probably have at least two of whatever you need. I never want my stuff to mean more to me than you. Life in Christ is an interesting (and challenging) journey. Perhaps you are further along on yours.
Share, would you, what God is teaching you?