This time of year, many of us are reflecting on all of the blessings we have. But have you taken time to be thankful for all the blessings you don’t have?
5 years ago, our family had the opportunity to live in France for a few months at a time. An unexpected highlight was the fact that we took only 2 suitcases worth of possessions. Total. For a family of 4. This included clothing, toiletries, books, toys, and even a couple of cooking pots. We distilled all of our possessions down to the most basic needs and even had room for a few wants. We didn’t stock up once we got there. And I can honestly say I never regretted not packing something.
One of the verses that I often meditated on during that time was: “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours…and you are in Christ, and Christ is in God” It cautions against boasting about identification with human leaders, but God used it to teach me another lesson as well:
I realized that I didn’t have to possess an object to enjoy it. I didn’t have to covet things that were already mine.
This sounds so obvious, but think about it. Most of us feel that we need to own something for it to really be ours. Imagine how different life would be if we knew, deep down, that everything was already ours. What if we were free to enjoy the abundance all around us without wearing it, driving it, or displaying it on the mantle? How would that change the way you spend your time and money? I’m not interested in saddling you with guilt. The goal is abundant life, right? I’m just saying that choosing to live with a reduced number of possessions gave me a chance to experience a new, unexpected freedom.
But it makes sense. To quote one of our family’s favorite radio dramas, “The more you have, the more you have to have to take care of the things you have”. In other words, stuff begets stuff. The responsibility of maintaining it can be crushing. Taking responsibility is a healthy thing, and there is something beautiful about having enough to share. But We need to ask ourselves, is my stuff serving me, or am I serving my stuff?
So, you might be thinking that any Buddhist (or atheist for that matter) could perform this same mental gymnastics. What does this really have to do with being “in Christ”? I’m only qualified to speak for myself, but I’m naturally a very jealous person. I could never experience this type of contentment apart from the mind renewal made possible by my savior.
It really is possible to enjoy a rich, full life without many of the possessions that you have been told you “need”. What if all things really were yours?