Stewardship of Life

Leaving Everything?

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on February 4, 2010

We humans become very attached to our stuff. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise: Imagine your house is on fire. If you could only take one thing out of the house with you, what would it be—a photo album, the family Bible, a piece of art or a musical instrument? The options are myriad. Could you limit it to one thing, or would you try feverishly to grab more?

French filmmaker and author John Cocteau once responded to this question by saying, “I’d take the fire.” Of course! That would remove the problem altogether. Yet there are many ways to look at the idea of choosing the fire. Fire is purifying, cleansing. It burns away the superfluous. Fire imagery plays prominently in scripture. This coming Sunday’s lesson from the sixth chapter of Isaiah involves the prophet being touched on the lips with a live coal from the altar. The coal has a purifying effect on Isaiah and seems to give him the wherewithal to boldly respond to the voice of the LORD, “Here am I, send me.” Speak now, ask for details later. Isaiah is called, and he answers.

Yes, leave the stuff and take the fire—be it fire in the belly, a fire for justice and service, and/or a fire for discipleship. Possessions just weigh us down; they end up possessing us. Trust me, as I move from room to room as part of my 2010 clutter cleanse, I am acutely aware of just how much “stuff” I possess and how much it weighs me down. Some things are still here for sentimental value, some because they are family heirlooms, and some for no real good reason at all. Many things haven’t been used in years.

Ron, colleague in ministry, once told me that each time his family moved they would sell everything but their personal items and start over in their new location by buying and refinishing antique furniture. At the time he told me this—some 15 years ago—I was incredulous. How could someone even begin to do that? It seemed so, well, vulnerable to be without the paraphernalia we associate with a successful life of spending and acquiring. After having made three major moves of my own, I now see his perspective in a much different light.

Ron and his family are not alone. Missionaries who leave for foreign shores do it all the time. Author and blogger Leo Babauta and his family plan to move this fall from Guam to San Francisco with just clothes, a laptop, and some artwork. Everett Bogue, a freelance photographer, author, and blogger has less than 100 possessions and enjoys a wonderful and fulfilling life. More and more people are discovering the joy of owning less and living more. It isn’t really as strange a thing to do as our culture would have us believe.

I think about Simon Peter and his partners in that Galilean fishing business. In the upcoming Sunday’s gospel lesson from the fifth chapter of Luke, Jesus calls them to catch people, and we are told “they left everything and followed him.” What a bold step in faith! It sounds to me like they certainly carried the fire instead of the stuff out of the proverbial burning house. Yes, fire in their bellies and faith in their hearts enabled these three folks to move beyond themselves into a radical and amazing life.

What about you? What about me? Can you imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind? Maybe it’s the stuff of dreams, but then again perhaps it’s time we all stared into the flames of some primal fire to reevaluate the allure and the velvet chains of our stuff.  Maybe we, too, need to take out the fire from our overstuffed dwellings and overbooked lives.

Tell me, what do you think? How much might you be willing to leave behind?

2 Responses to 'Leaving Everything?'

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  1. Robert Charles said,

    Leaving everything and starting over? It reminds me of the Jubilee year described in the Old Testament, when slaves are set free and everything reverts back to original ownership. A totally fresh start — no baggage, no debt, no possessions to keep you enslaved. (Why haven’t Biblical literalists insisted on this? Oh wait! Now I remember: Literalism applies only to matters of sex, not economics.)

    It’s awful when tragedy, such as fire, domestic abuse or dislocation, forces people to take this radical step. I remember the Kosovar refugees in the 1990s trudging into Macedonia with only what they could carry on their backs.

    But when you have the discipline to do this by your own free choice, you are free, indeed.

  2. […] Leaving Everything? […]

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