For months (years, maybe) I've had this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't quite place it, but I knew it had to do with our "stuff." Our garage doubles as a play room and every few weeks when I spend thirty or so minutes re-organizing all the toys and putting away assorted modes of transport, I get really overwhelmed. I look at shelves and shelves of stuff: books, camping equipment, wrapping paper, hand-me-downs waiting for the next season, tools, trikes, bikes, boxes, etc. We have SO MUCH stuff.
I've been feeling the need to purge, I realized. And not just any Spring cleaning-type purge, but wondering if we could get rid of half of the stuff we own-type purge. I'm not the only one who's feeling it: my friend Mel decided to simplify for Lent. Awesome idea. My hubby read an article on Zeit about saving money on bills and in a few short hours saved us nearly $400 a year. Double to the awesome.
Then there's the reality that we are simplifying our lives in a major way because we're taking a leap of faith. We're following the call of Christ to make disciples who make disciples outside of the traditional church, and in doing so, we're going to raise money outside of the traditional paycheck.
We've been looking for ways to cut expenses, trim the fat, etc., I've been feeling the need to purge and simplify, and then (cue angelic voices and sunbeams)....along came this book:
Go buy it. Seriously. I want every person I know and love to read this book. It might be the most important and impactful book I've read in years (other than the Bible, of courshe). She writes in the most personable, humble, honest, heart-tugging way. It's as if Jen (the author, because we're totally BFFs now) crawled into my head and heart, took all of my scattered and chaotic feelings and thoughts and put them together in a book that is both delightful and challenging to read.
So, getting to the point of this post (and finally addressing the title), this morning in the shower I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity. [now, I don't know about you, but I have nearly all of my Jesus moments in the bathroom. I think it's because it's the one place where I'm alone with my thoughts. Well, also it's a place I spend a lot of time, courtesy of colitis and especially this week's stomach flu.]
I started to cry because I'm just really tired of being sick. I started throwing up on Monday and I'm still struggling. I climbed in the shower to let the warm water soothe my achy muscles. I told God that I'm so tired of being sick, that my body hurts and every muscle from my hips to my tailbone is seizing in pain because the flu sent me into a colitis relapse and the cramping is making my stomach ache and I'm just weak and crabby and ready to feel well.
And then, I thought about Africa. And Asia. I thought about the 6000 children that die EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from chronic diarrhea. Then I really started to cry. I asked God to forgive me for being so self-focused. I asked him to have mercy not on me but on the thousands of precious little lambs who will die while I enjoy my pity party in my hot shower (in my bathroom with plumbing, in my house that I own, in sunny California, in America...)
I have colitis, but I know I'll get better. I am not going to die from diarrhea or pelvic pain. I have expensive prescription meds, I have a great doctor, I have prayer and the power of the risen Christ living in me. I have people who check in on me and bring me meals. I have family who send flowers and make homemade chicken stock when I'm too sick to eat anything else.
What about those 6000 children who will die today of diarrhea? They don't have anything. They don't have clean water. They don't even have clean clothes. They will never go shopping for a new article of clothing. They'll never know what it is like to celebrate a birthday with ten new plastic toys wrapped in festive paper and curling ribbon.
Oh God, forgive me. I am so self-focused. You have placed on my heart this desire to change, to simplify, to be aware, to stop focusing on myself and my idols of health, control, image, and the accumulation of new "stuff." Help me to be aware of those who are without. Those who will suffer today. The parents who will hold their children as they die because they had no access to clean water and no access to completely and totally inexpensive anti-diarrheal meds. The fathers who will work another day for so little money that once again they will feed their children a few bites of rice and nothing else. The girls who are forced into the sex trade so their family gets a few dollars to provide for the rest of their kids. Oh, forgive me.
As part of the simplification effort, I asked others to join me in collecting our (nice, expensive, excessive) castoffs and sorting them to donate to Macedonian Outreach, a group who provides for the poorest of the poor and most poorly treated of the poorly treated in the Balkans. As I folded up clothes from my closet and paired shoes to line up, I prayed over them.
God, this blazer accompanied me in a time when I counseled grieving families. The pin from my first post-graduate job is still attached! I haven't worn it in years. Please take this coat across the sea to someone who needs to be comforted. Wrap it around the shoulders of a sister who has lost something and is grieving. May she feel my prayers surround her as the coat keeps her warm.
God, these shoes: I've held onto them for years because I bought them in Paris. They speak of a time when I was carefree, when you had answered the cry of a desperate heart for release from a time of trouble. I don't need them. I have you. Place these shoes on the feet of someone who is carrying a large burden. May the shoes not only warm their feet but take them from a place of desperation to a place of freedom.
We held a brunch at our house when we gathered up all the clothing. I made 4 dozen pancakes or so. This morning, I'm reminded that many, many kids who will get the clothes we collected will never ever taste a pancake, let alone syrup, fresh fruit, crispy smoked bacon, or orange juice. God, have mercy on them. Let them taste YOUR goodness.
And, finally, our awesome group, gathered in front of one of three (!!!) carloads of castoffs we collected. Our too-much-stuff going to help those who are without.