I spent most of this week discarding.
Most of what got tossed went to the recycling center. Other items will be sold off. I don’t like to see my excess wind up in a landfill just because I couldn’t control how much I consume. Driving past the county dump this afternoon, it seemed to me to be a hundred feet higher. Though I do my best not to contribute to the altitude, I can’t escape that at least a few of those towering inches are indeed mine.
The number of bags of shredded files totaled five. I can probably shred another ten bagfuls. My parents’ lives comprised much of those confetti strips of paper. They’ve been gone nearly seven years now. Old mortgage papers, phone numbers for people who have moved on, medical receipts. Two lives in paper.
Our house resembles a bomb blast as we make room. Items that once held precious memories today prove that magic drains out in time. The present asserts itself, while the future bears down with the weight of uncertainty.
The Lord’s been speaking to my heart this week. He says I need to live lighter. With each discarded item, each memory that tumbles from my hand, each dream I let go, I know I’m one step closer to heaven.
I don’t think that word’s just for me, though.
I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds on the low-glycemic diet I’ve been following. It could have been more, but 30 was enough. I added a few off-limits items and my weight has stabilized. Of all the effects of this weight loss, none compares with the energy I’ve rediscovered.
There’s a lesson for us in that.
Whenever I consider the American Church’s state, I can’t help but think that much of our problem stems, not from the weight of glory, but from the burden of worldliness. Our inability to resist the weight of the world has rendered us fat and lazy, shackled to things, and far from the heart of God.
A simple gut check here: we don’t do the things Christ asks of us because if we did, we’d have to lose our lives. We’d have to step away from the TV, turn off the iPod, stop planning the vacation in Cancun, and get serious about the work of the Lord. We’d have to stop wondering how to insure all the debris we lay claim to and start investing in the Kingdom.
But you see, we can’t, can we? All that stuff means too much to us.
I hear so many people talking about seeking after God for a vision for their lives. To most of those people, I would say, “Give up now.”
Why? Because not a square inch exists in their souls for whatever vision God would wish to give them. All the empty places reserved for the Lord are filled with the world’s accumulated trappings. That stops 99 percent of Christians in the West dead, right there. They’ll never be effective for the Kingdom because they can’t give it all up and live lighter.
When God sent manna, He warned the people not to store it because He wants His people to live lighter.
When the days grow dim, Jesus warns us not to go back for our coat when it is time to move because He wants us to live lighter.
The desire to hold onto the world’s symbols of success destroys Christians. Destroys. The number of people who put their hands to the plow and look back must be in the millions. And each one of those millions grieves the heart of God. When I think of all those hopeful servants who never achieved God’s best for them because, like the monkey who grabbed the coconut in the trap, they couldn’t let go of their stuff and subsequently saw their ministry potential nullified…well, it breaks my heart.
At one point in my life, nearly everything I owned fit into my Honda Civic hatchback. But time, a little success, marriage, and children all contribute to this upward parabolic curve of accumulation that inevitably leads to divided loyalties. And most people fail to question that division. They’ll call their wealth “God’s blessing,” yet for most people that “blessing” only leads to a soul loaded down with perishables. Instead of storing up treasure for heaven, we’re hoarding the wealth of the flesh and watching our potential for the Kingdom wither and die.
The American Dream undoes most of us. On paper, it reads great. But the reality only leads to bloat and uselessness. And if we think God’s going to use us mightily for the Kingdom when we’re stuffed to the gills with the world’s excess, then we’re the most deceived people on the face of the planet.
If we want our lives to reflect the transformation from self-centered louts into the glorious image of Christ, then we have a choice don’t we? And the amazing thing about that choice is that even if we chose wrong a long time ago, the Lord will give us another chance to choose right. He wants us to lose the world’s flab, even if we gorged ourselves on it once.
Right now, it’s not too late. One day, it will be.
To live larger, we’ve got to live lighter.
What do you have to lose?
17 thoughts on “Living Lighter, Living Larger”
“Our inability to resist the weight of the world has rendered us fat and lazy, shackled to things, and far from the heart of God.”
If we could reach even a small percentage of the Body in the West with this truth we might … just might … see God move among His Anglo-Saxon hordes once again.
Maybe. Just maybe.
“What do you have to lose?”
For someone who was raised by packrats (when my dad passed away, I found documents for the house they bought in 1954!) and who has been a packrat for most of my life, I’m just now starting to learn to get rid of stuff. I can only depend on the Spirit’s leading on some of the stuff because I have a hard time figuring out what’s neede and what’s just stuff.
Although, when it’s all said and done, it’s all just stuff.
People live forever, but items don’t. Now which should we be spending more time on?
You’re right. People are the most important. I inherited a whole bunch of stuff, and gave more away because we didn’t have room, from my parents when they passed away. I’d rather have them back.
Yeah, we lost my folks right as their grandchildren were being born and that truly stunk. My brothers and I would have given anything to have kept our parents around a few more years to enjoy their grandkids.
You’re not alone!
During a dry and difficult life-season last summer I helped my parents de-accumulate. It was a process, and not a fun one. It began with an idea of mine, that in retrospect wasn’t really mine, but the Spirit’s. “What about a yard sale?” Two months later my mother began speaking about it as a turning point – saying “yes” to the yard sale began a chain of events, spiritual and physical, that is still percolating through their lives.
I’m a military spouse, and we’re soon to relocate. The teaching points from last summer’s experience now strike my heart strongly. My husband and I are making many trips to the local christian charity thrift store with things in the donation box I thought I would never part with. Every trip makes me realize how much I didn’t need all that stuff anyway, and the lighter I feel. I know from experience this addiction to freedom from ‘stuff’ will continue, and when we get to our new location I will unpack and ask myself, “Why did I bother to bring this along??” And into the donation box it will go.
I think we all could use a little more addiction to getting rid of ‘stuff.’ Although, moving across the country every three years tends to hasten that realization!
After reading this blog post, I realize the Spirit is speaking to more people than just me and my immediate family on this matter. I wish you well, brother, and encourage you in your efforts!
I wish all elderly parents before they die would bless their kids by divesting themselves of both valuable items and junk. My parents died four months apart and the stuff we had to wade through was never-ending and time-consuming.
“A simple gut check here: we don’t do the things Christ asks of us because if we did, we’d have to lose our lives. We’d have to step away from the TV, turn off the iPod, stop planning the vacation in Cancun, and get serious about the work of the Lord. We’d have to stop wondering how to insure all the debris we lay claim to and start investing in the Kingdom.”
Start somewhere. Find a small number of like-minded people, who want to change their lives. Meet with them in the home, or in the coffee shop. Change locations, go out together, and hold eachother to the standard. Then invite your friends.
That group must be local. Nothing else makes sense.
The drive to accumulate can seem overpowering. But after reading your post, I looked at the vase on the fireplace mantel in my living room. It belonged to my maternal great-grandmother. It is the only thing my family has left that belonged to her. Think about it: An entire life’s worth of possessions redistributed or discarded, except for one vase. The same process is happening to my grandparents’ and my parents’ belongings. I have a few things left from my maternal grandfather, a trinket or two from my paternal grandfather, mounds of worthless stuff from my late father, and plans to get rid of plenty of stuff my mother still owns that none of her sons will wnat.
I have my maternal grandfather’s and grandmother’s Bibles; my father’s and mother’s Bibles. If I have nothing left from them, I would prefer those to a vase.
You save and buy, buy and save, but in the end, someone else winds up with all that stuff.
Seems kind of crazy doesn’t it?
I wish we spent as much on people, who live forever, than on things that perish.
I’ve divested myself three times for various mission trips around the world, and I know several families who have had to leave behind all they owned on several occasions, running before a tide of death and destruction.
As I get older, it gets harder to dispose of things, simply because, like lichen, I’ve anchored my life to those things that make me feel “at home.”
For those who have had a past steeped in poverty, it’s even harder to give up ‘things’, because they are a physical proof of a better life. Turning away from things is denying our ability to improve ourselves, or if we want to really rationalize, it’s denying what we think of as the positive action of God in our lives.
These comforts masquerade as the evidence of God taking care of us.
In my own case, the older I get, the easier it is to get rid of stuff. None of it feels like home to me because I can’t find home in things. I find home in people. None of the stuff matters.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so hot on community here. I can’t take stuff with me when I die, but I can take people—in that I can tell them about Jesus and help them love and serve him more effectively.
Your last sentence is a killer because that’s exactly what Evangelicals in the US believe. But what then would they make of Paul? Shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment—sounds like God’s not doing the best job of taking care of good old Paul!
The running joke in our family is that my inheritance is out in the shed. Sadly, it is too true that the shed (and the garage, and a friend’s garage) is packed with stuff that has followed my parents across the country and back again.
Rose,I highly encourage those of us with parents pushing into their 70s to convince them to divest themselves of inheritances now rather than when they die. So much grief can be avoided and so much work! My parents died within four months of each other and left me to handle a nearly impossible load. In some ways, that has permanently altered the course of my life. Don’t follow in my footsteps in this. Encourage your folks to distribute as much as they can now so that their estate is minimal.
I’m working on it, but I fear it falls on deaf ears. I was particularly touched by your post because I grew up with a feeling that the “stuff” came first. Piles here, piles there, and don’t touch anything or watch out!
I write this at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table, taking a break from trying to sort out my father-in-law’s stuff. Everything is a mess.
When my grandmother died, her surviving children nearly went 8 rounds over a butter churn. A butter churn! What a legacy.
I often ask myself how I want to be remembered. I hope that when my children look back they see a mom who kissed owies and wiped tears, helped them learn and taught them about Christ. I do not want them to see a mom who sat long hours in front of email (or anything else that clouds my focus), but I confess it is a daily struggle to tear myself away from the inconsequential things of this world.