When we first started planning a move to Nicaragua, I went through a whole season of purging. Oh man, was that painful. Essentially I had to look at every single item in our 1800 sq. foot house and decide what to do with it. In previous moves, there was always the point at the end where you just shove a bunch of leftover stuff into a random box and label it “Wendy’s treasures” or “junk drawer” or whatever makes that box seem worth keeping at the moment.
But when you’re moving abroad, via commercial airplane, those “miscellaneous treasure” boxes don’t exactly make the cut.
I recently spoke with a friend about this same issue. She shared how her family actually moved into their new house “slowly” so they could bring over everything they wanted as they needed it. They thought this type of move would prevent them from just shoving stuff into those inevitable last minute boxes that end up staying packed in your new home’s storage area until the next time you move…
Anyway, before they knew it months and months went by. Everything they really needed was in their new home, but the old home still held a lot of stuff. In fact, it was so much that they kinda started to avoid the house altogether. They didn’t even know what to do with it all, anyway.
But then a neighbor from the old community called. Had they heard about the break-ins? Was their house affected? The phone call prompted a visit. The visit revealed a loss.
When they returned to their beloved prior home, they found it had new inhabitants, only they were of the four-legged and winged varieties. And yes, the thieves had also made themselves at home, stealing anything valuable they could find.
Hey, what was that verse again?
Yeah, that’s the one. Wow, what a clear and direct example of that teaching.
Sorting through all of our stuff two years ago helped me identify my true treasures. And through it all I cried and yelled and questioned a lot. When I had to return a year later to sell off the remaining furniture and household items we’d left there the first year, I cried and yelled and questioned again. “Really,” I pleaded with God, “We don’t have to lose all of it, do we?”
I questioned why I needed to get rid of my awesome sectional (the one I waited to buy until after my kids were past the whole marker/paint/crayon-everywhere stage). I rationalized that we didn’t really need to get rid of it all, right? We could save some of it for… I don’t know, later?! So I ignored all those promptings from God and got us a moving van real quick. We ended up driving a bunch of our treasures nine hours north to the rental home we owned near my in-laws.
“Take that, God,” I might as well have been saying. “You told me to clear out our primary residence, but I found a big ol’ loop hole!”
For the record, my dear sweet husband thought I was crazy.
Also for the record, he was right. Because you know what? We left that vacation home in August, with all of our precious belongings so carefully tucked inside… and then in November, God asked us to sell that very same home. But I didn’t roll over that easily. Oh no, I fought it for several weeks. In fact, I think my first response was something along the lines of: But what about my STUFF?!
Yeah, eventually I gave in and wouldn’t you know it, He sold it within 18 hours of us putting it on the market… stuff (and my oh-so-perfect-sectional) included.
Now, two years after we first started the purging, we are considering what it will look like when we eventually return to the States. We’ll be starting over from scratch… without any furniture or household items to call our own. Seems funny to imagine getting the keys to a new home without a moving van to stock it.
That is both freeing and petrifying at the same time.
The thing is… I don’t want to get so enamored with my stuff again that I do something crazy like drive it nine-hours-away just to keep it for “a rainy day.” My current bedroom has a mattress and two nightstands. Not very beautiful or really decorated, but absolutely functional. It is that way because we don’t have extra cash to spend on anything else, and also because we don’t know how long we’ll be here.
Lately I’ve been wondering if this shouldn’t be the way we live anywhere…
I want to live like this even when I’m back in the US and have bug-proof screens, air conditioning, and a dishwasher. Even when there is a Target or Ikea on every corner, filled with all the stuff I could ever want. Even when, technically, I don’t need to.
I want to always remember how important it is to hold everything (yes, really: everything) with an open hand. God has graciously given me whatever I have, and if He decides to take it away — whenever He decides to take it away — I want to realize that is His prerogative to do so (without looking for that loop hole). Do I always like it? Clearly not.
But with time, I can (usually) see the value in each lost earthly treasure, because they almost always coincide with a growing pile of eternal ones.Photo © Brian C. Weed via Flikr