Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Faith and Stuff

One of the most sanctifying parts of our move so far has been our downsizing.  We are getting rid of the vast majority of our stuff, including all but a few pieces of our furniture, the majority of Esther's toys, almost all of our baby stuff (even as we expect another one in 5 months), about half of our clothes, some of our books, any kitchen item that isn't used regularly and tons (TONS) of little odds and ends.

Some of the items we are selling, and we will use the money towards establishing our household once we move and replacing the items we have sold.  Most of our stuff isn't worth a lot, and we are just giving it away to good homes.

This has been quite an exercise of faith in a number of ways.  As I mentioned before, though sometimes  getting rid of stuff has felt freeing, more often I have feelings of, "How are we going to replace this?  How will we live without ___?  What if God doesn't provide another _____ after we move?"

But in the midst of my doubt, my anxiety, even my idolatrous love of things, God has been so gracious to me.  When I am tempted to want to grasp on to our stuff, he has been faithful to keep me open handed.  He has been very faithful to help me remember that ALL of our stuff is a gift from him... whether someone gave it to us or we bought it, He has been the provider.  And reminding me that He can provide again once we move.  Its been good to remember the example of so many missionaries that I respect, including Hudson Taylor (the namesake for our son due in April) and George Mueller who owned so little (and were eager to give away what little they owned when necessary) and didn't even ask for financial support, but just prayed to God to provide all of their finances.  This is true of us too (even though sometimes we are tempted to feel like we are providing for ourselves).  God is just as much our Father, and we need to depend on him and look to him and trust in him as though that is true. Just like I hope that Esther trusts us to provide her with all she needs (even though her definition of "need" doesn't always match our definition), so too I want to trust God.

And the cool thing is, the more stuff we give away, the less I feel attached to our stuff.  Stuff can be like a ball and chain some times and the problem is that we have lived so long with the ball and chain, we feel like we need it locked around our ankle in order to stay attached to the ground.  When I am tempted to think that I need a certain item, giving it away is so freeing, to realize that our stuff doesn't control me and that yes, we can still live and thrive without that certain item.

It has also been eye opening to see how easily our children can become idols (and how its easy to justify our idolatry of them).  The hardest thing to get rid of haven't been our books or our clothes or even kitchen items, as much as I love to cook.  The hardest things to get rid of have been some of Esther's toys (we are keeping a fair number of toys, but getting rid of many of them, especially the big ones).  I know that she loves her toys.  And I love seeing her play with her toys.  And (selfishly) I love that her toys keep her occupied when I am trying to get something else done.  And its more easy for me to justify keeping her toys than any of my own stuff, because I so strongly want the best for her.  Its hard for me to remember that getting rid of some of her toys is even beneficial for her, helping her to learn to live simply and not feel a need to own lots of stuff.  I have to remember that contentment for Esther will never come from the amount of stuff she owns, but only from God.

Another truth that God keeps reinforcing is that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  There are many items that I have wanted to keep for us, but realized that there is another person who could benefit from them more.  In each of these cases, God has reminded me that giving is the better option, and that blessedness comes from giving.  And when I take the step of faith to just give things away, it is so fun to feel the joy that comes from being a blessing to another person.

I feel grateful to God that this has been a rather easy lesson in the grand scheme of things.  Often sanctification is very painful, but God has been good to not let me dwell in anxiety over saying goodbye to stuff, and redirect my focus to prayer and actively seeking to trust Him.  The trust and peace he has given me is truly supernatural, nothing I could produce within myself on my own.

Its been fun to see the random ways that God has provided for us in the past few years (often times in the least expected way) and I look forward to seeing how he continues to provide in the next few weeks and months.  This past summer, we have a friend who moved to the same town in Indiana that we are moving to.  He moved with absolutely no furniture, and within a week or two had his apartment almost completely furnished from items that were just given to him.  I remember his faith and how he praised God for each piece of furniture that God gave him.  I look forward to getting to experience God in the same way.

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