Six months ago I moved from Portland, Oregon to West Palm Beach, Florida with my husband, nine days after our wedding.
When we first started talking about the move we were a little naive, to say the least. It was going to be so great, we figured. We were going to live in a high rise condo in City Place (the hip, urban area of town). Movers were going to ship all of our furniture and set it up for us, so it was all ready when we arrived after our honeymoon…
Two months later I stood in my parents’ garage, arms collapsed at my side, staring helplessly at my sea of scattered belongings.
In front of me were six boxes, each 2-feet deep, 2-feet wide, and about waist high.
“You can bring anything you can fit in these,” I heard my soon-to-be-husband say in that sort of distant, echoey voice that you always hear in dreams. My furniture was already sold and gone. I had decided to leave my single speed bike at home. I had given away my trekking poles, and all of my camping gear (I didn’t figure I was going to do much camping or hiking in Florida). It still wasn’t all going to fit in the boxes. Not even close.
You can do this, I coached myself, as I packed the boxes.
It’s just stuff. You don’t need it.
Obediently, confidently, I talked myself through the process, surveying each item and placing it into the “Goodwill” pile, the “garbage” pile, or adding it to one of the six boxes. It took hours but when I finished, I was proud of myself. I had chosen the “golden” items that would make the journey with me to Florida, and made peace with everything else.
It was official. All of my belongings fit into six boxes and two suitcases.
A week before the wedding, my fiancé broke the news: I needed to turn those six boxes into three.
I still remember cutting the taped boxes open, pulling out the items I had so carefully chosen. He was sorry he said. He knew this was hard. But shipping was more expensive than we had estimated, and there were a few other unexpected financial hardships, and we had to cut corners wherever we could.
I remember holding each item in my hand. I remember the weight of them, and the color of them, like whole thing happened in high definition. I remember the yellow pillow, and the tool set with flowers on the handles my dad had given me for Christmas. I remember the Antropologie candle, and the blender — the very first kitchen appliance I had ever purchased for myself.
I remember crying actual tears over my belongings, now spread like a yard sale on top of a ping pong table.
Now that I’m in Florida I often think about the things I left behind.
I think about my bike, that might still be leaning against the wall in my parent’s dark garage. I miss riding it around the city, and with friends to breakfast on Saturday mornings. I miss disappearing into the Columbia River Gorge for the day, with my trekking poles, to discover out a new trail to up a mountain, with a new incredible view.
I think about my old beautiful, real wood dresser that I’ve traded for an ugly, bright blue thrift store dresser that my husband and I keep promising we’ll refinish one day, but never get around to it.
Then I think about how boring my life would be if I only ever experienced God and his love for me in the same old ways, over and over again.
I’m convinced that God asks us to give things up, sometimes, because He knows it’s good for us. Sometimes it’s physical things, like a bike, or a tool set, or a pair of hiking shoes. Sometimes it’s a place — like a city, or building, or an organization. Sometimes it’s more abstract, like what we’ve always believed to be true about Him, or about ourselves, or about someone else.
Either way, it’s like He’s beckoning to us. Come over here. Come to me. Move from your position. Let’s go on a journey. I’ll take care of you, I promise. I know your needs and I will meet them.
But you’re not going to be able to bring all of that stuff with you.
Sometimes, He asks us to give up even more than we think is right, or fair. That’s how it was for me, when six boxes became three boxes, and when one box showed up to my apartment in Florida, a week later, without anything in it.
That’s how it was for the rich young ruler, in the Gospels, who came to Jesus asking what He had to do in order to be a “follower,” and was told to sell everything he had and give it away.
I bet that wasn’t what he was expecting.
I picture the young man turning from Jesus, sad and dejected. I can understand what he felt like. Give away everything? He must have thought. I don’t understand. Why would I have to give away everything? Then I picture what Jesus must have felt like watching the man walk away. You’d really pick stuff over following me?
I picture him feeling sad, because he was planning to take the young man on a really cool journey.
Stuff isn’t bad. It isn’t even wrong, but attachment to stuff (physical, emotional or spiritual) keeps us stuck. I believe that’s why God asks us to live unattached to our stuff. I believe He is on the move, that He is doing things, exciting things, and He wants us to be a part of it. But if we’re not willing to let go of what we have, we can never go on the journey.
What do you have a hard time letting go of?