Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Let Freedom (Ear)Ring

"I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to Your commands." --Psalm 119:45

It is undoubtedly a challenge to gain freedom from many of life's addictions. People struggle with weight loss, cigarette addiction, codependent relationships--the list goes on. My struggle has always been letting go of things.

One of my earliest memories was of a pick up truck backing up in the yard to take away my toys. I was three or four years old and my mother had hauled them out to be taken away as garbage. I remember my plastic Mickey Mouse on the top of the heap and I remember crying and wanting to hold them and keep them. Or at least say goodbye.

Then my best friend moved when I was seven. I didn't have many friends since I was home schooled, so Denise, my neighborhood friend, filled many hours of time in the evenings (in the days that children still played outside until dusk). It was the first time I had to say goodbye to a friend. Weeks later, squatting in the yard alone, pretending to bury treasure, I paused and said aloud,"Friends are really the only treasure." I think God heard me. I have been blessed with friendships most of my life.

But I still have a lot of crap.

Every note passed to me in High School, every photo taken from every year at summer camp, rocks, soda cans, broken necklaces--and the toys from childhood I became old enough to pilfer. Each memento became a trademark of a person or emotion--a mile marker of remembrance. Eventually it becomes overwhelming. You face the piles of refuse. You intend to clean. But you can't dispose of much because as the item dangles over the Hefty bag your actions reek of betrayal.

Sometimes saving and neglecting stems from fear.

The last gift my brother gave me before he died was a set of diamond earrings for my 30th birthday. I used to wear them as often as I could find an occasion. After he died, I wore them at his funeral and never again. I am afraid of two things: I would be devastated to lose them and if someone tried to steal them, say in a robbery for instance, I believe I would at the least hesitate in handing them over or flat out refuse.

It's possible that I would compromise my life for a possession. It's a valuable and meaningful possession but it's not worth my life. Yet my instinct has been that, life or death, I would cling to that last, meaningful and precious gift.

How are our possessions costing us our life?

I've discovered it is hard to throw away things for several reasons:

1. We feel we are betraying a part of ourselves.

2. We feel we are betraying others.

3. We are afraid of forgetting.

4. We are afraid we will stop caring about the event or person connected to that thing.

5. We are afraid that we will lose our value in losing our things.

I kept notes from High School because it was one of the most pivotal and precious times in my life. I met my best friend, my first love, the first adults who believed in me, I discovered my talents and my identity, my own thoughts and opinions.

It's necessary to confront the motivation for keeping those old things. How am I honoring the truly valuable aspects of that time in my life? That question is worth the time it takes to consider and evolve into an eternal result; keeping trash is not honoring the person I was, the people I knew, the values that are so engrained that they are irreversible.

We are such a Disney generation that everything we own has feelings. That stuffed dog, that old clock, the sea shell we picked up when we were seven on our first beach trip. We have identified parts of ourselves with inanimate objects. This sentiment is glorified in a astonishingly profound children's film called The Brave Little Toaster. In this movie, 4 appliances who live in a summer home have fond memories of their "master"--a child who has grown up and moved on to college. They spend their adventure trying to reconnect with him, addressing subjects including loneliness, insignificance, and apathy.

We are not a summary of what we possess. Our character and personal growth is rather a summary of how we possess.

Before we address our unnecessary "stuff" we can prepare by following a few guidlines:

1. How you own is more important than what you own.

Honoring investments of time and detail to your things by cleaning, organizing, and using the things that are a blessing to you is a result and reward of good stewardship.

2. Gratitude for what you have is more than a fortune cookie adage. It's a means for increase.

Using and valuing what you already have sounds very Mickey Mouse but how often do we follow impulse and eat a burger instead of cooking what we already have at home? Did you buy those new shoes when there were already an unworn pair in the closet? Obtaining more things when possessions at home go neglected can be an often ignored sign of ingratitude, lack of self control, entitlement, and neglect. Convenience and excess robs of us the valuable time and talent and truly many times it destroys the potential for the things we really want out of life.

3. Possessions can exemplify the root of our problems or the source of our victories.

Examining where you spend money is one of the best ways to determine what you worship. Looking at what you already have is as equally tell-tale. It is easy to say that you love having company over for dinner. It is harder to prove that when your house is always a mess. It feels good to say "I love to cook" but it is harder to prove when all the gadgets you buy for cooking are gathering dust in the pantry. We spend our lives in denial and bondage when we cannot take an honest look at our surroundings and accept what they are telling us: you don't love people as much as you love your things. You're not investing in becoming a cook, you're investing in items you don't make time to use.

My brother bought me earrings because he was proud that he could, because he loved me, and because he wanted me to wear them and when people asked me where I got those lovely earrings, he wanted me to be able to say,"My brother bought them for me."

If fear is your motivator you will never truly live a free life.

My brother will never be alive again on this earth. I can never get another present from him and that is just one more thing that makes those earrings so dear to me. But with or without the earrings he gave me, I am still his sister. I am alive, I remember him, and I can honor him by not being afraid to wear the gift he so generously gave to me on such a special birthday.

Sometimes we must let go of what we will inevitably lose to truly possess those things that cannot be destroyed.