"My Relationship with My Stuff"
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
This morning I stood in my closet and considered all the multiples — multiple shoes, multiple scarves and multiple purses. Too much stuff!
How have I gotten to this place again with a collection of more than I need? The most honest answer is that I use my things to define myself. I think my "perfect" purse makes me seem more perfect. I believe my cool shoes transfer their vibe to my persona. I hope my trendy scarf affirms my relevance.
It’s time to clean out! Not only do I not need so much, but years ago I learned a memorable lesson about the soul-cleansing power of simplifying. I learned it while visiting a humble, cinder-block house in the mountains of Ecuador.
Early on a Sunday morning, the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team and our local hosts loaded into buses that drove us out of the large capital city of Quito, into the gorgeous countryside and up the mountains.
As the bus rounded a corner on the twisting mountain road, a stucco church with a red-tiled roof came into view. Our group clambered down the steps and walked toward the church flanked on either side by two rows of stunning, dark-haired, dark-eyed children clad in heavily embroidered clothing. Once their shyness melted away, these darling children climbed onto our laps and held our hands throughout the entire worship service.
When the sermon ended, our team split into pairs to visit with the children in their homes. Our guides explained that their beautiful faces might cause us to overlook the harsh reality of their lives. So, with groceries in hand for the families, we set out to visit their homes and see their true living conditions.
One of the mothers, Dolores, greeted us and invited us into her home to meet her family. Her husband, a builder working in Quito, wasn’t there that day, but evidently they had a loving relationship when he was home … he and Dolores had filled their tiny space with seven children!
The home was tidy, but the floors were bare dirt and plastic sheeting served as a ceiling. There was running water and electricity but no appliances in the kitchen. The only sign of food was a small stack of maize in the corner. In the bedroom, we saw two beds for the whole family, and though we knew the mountain nights and winters to be cold, I didn’t see a furnace or any indication that the house was heated. Even so, it was obvious that Dolores was proud of her well-built home and of the hours her faithful husband had spent building it for their family. She glowed as she described the care and craftsmanship he invested for them.
As we prepared to leave, my team partner asked Dolores a pivotal question: "Dolores," she began. "How can we pray for you and your family? What is your greatest need?"
While we waited for the interpreter, I took a mental assessment of Dolores’ many needs. But my mouth hung open as I listened to her response: "My greatest need is to be able to teach my children about Jesus so they will follow the Lord all the days of their lives." Tears filled my eyes as my heart absorbed the lesson this Ecuadorian woman in humble circumstances taught me.
Dolores’ prayer request revealed that her deepest desire isn’t for the perfect house or the signature outfit. She values relationships — with God and others — more than material things.
That experience impressed this truth upon my heart: God created us for connecting, not collecting.
As I clean out my closet, I want to value the same thing Dolores values. I vow to hold my "stuff" loosely and be defined by the closeness of my relationships.
Lord, forgive me for my defining relationship with stuff. I want to be defined by You and my love for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (NIV)