I had to vacate an old office space at short notice this week. This’ll be easy, I thought. I’ll just pop in this afternoon, put everything into a box and take it to my car.
But, as seems to be the way with these things, that’s not how it turned out. The process was less like a quick tidy up and more like an archaeological dig.
The funny thing was, that all this stuff that I’d forgotten about, that had been buried in drawers and stacked in cupboards, suddenly seemed useful again. I mean, before I walked in, I would have been okay if it had all burned, but here I was having real trouble deciding what to throw out.
It’s amazing how sometimes things come together in such a way that it seems someone is trying to tell me something. During the rest of the week, I read and listened to things that made this simple event take on significance. A theme was developing.
If I was understanding correctly, I felt that it was time to stop finding my identity in what I’d been in the past, and to discover the self that was waiting to be found the moment I dropped the baggage.
To drop the past and be ready to jump at whatever opportunity comes my way. Fluid, dynamic, agile. It’s the way we were when we were young. Now responsibilities, position and the false safety-net of wealth tie us down in the one spot.
But come on. Let’s go. Let’s leave what we won’t miss and just go. We’ll have to give it all up one day anyway.
It’s one problem with living in such a wonderful country. We’re safe, comfortable and content, happy to spend our nights watching television and our weekends at our hobbies.
That’s all fine if everything is happy and at peace. But when there’s something that needs changing, we struggle to find the motivation to get off the couch. We're caught by surprise.
Dressed and ready for action
It might not seem like anything new is on the horizon, but when opportunities come, they’re like a passing train. You’ve got to be ready to jump on board.
The problem is, we live like it’s 11am on a Saturday morning and we’re still in our pyjamas.
And it’s largely a mindset. We can still have lots of stuff. But if I had to let it all go tomorrow, could I do it?
Am I free? Able to respond to unexpected opportunities at will?
Today I was faced with the choice between lunch and making the most of a moment with my kids. I love my lunch, but was I willing to ignore the tummy grumbles to seize a time that might not come again?
Then there are bigger but often more subtle scenarios, where something I’ve accumulated prevents me from living the way I want to.
I’ve found these things have crept up on me so gradually. Suddenly I’ve achieved things I hadn’t dreamed of, acquired things that ten years ago I could never afford, and have somehow landed in this place of feeling pretty set up.
Then the thought creeps in about how am I going to protect all this? How can I get more? The essence of what life should really be about is lost for some kind of game chasing artificial targets.
What starts as a one off, or a moment by moment free choice, can become the accumulation of something that soon ties itself around us. Our lives grow full, but so do our minds. Peace walks out when we get caught up in stuff. We gain everything we’ve dreamed of only to discover we were happier before.
How do we escape?
Though it’s counterintuitive, I’m learning that sacrifice is gain. That in choosing restraint, there is freedom, and the discovery of who I really am.
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Luke chapter 12, verses 33 and 34.
Tom Anderson is pioneering www.haventogether.com, an online church plant supported by his in-person church, Catalyst, Ipswich. He has a young, growing family and enjoys playing backyard sport. Tom is a keen long-distance runner, averaging 21km each day last year. He has worked as a teacher for eleven years and enjoys perfecting a flat white on his home espresso machine. Tom would welcome a visit for a coffee some time… or an online catch-up via Zoom. See the Haven Together website to get in touch.