Last Sunday evening, I opened my Bible and turned to the book of Luke, intending to read Luke 12:22-31, one of the great passages of comfort for those of us who struggle with anxiety. Instead, the passage immediately following it caught my eye.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Lk 12:32-34 ESV)
“Fear not, little flock,” Jesus says. Do not worry about what you have or don’t have. But I have let myself be afraid. For the past three weeks I have been systematically going through my belongings, deciding what to keep and store, what to keep and bring with me on my cross-country drive, and what to donate or sell. Turns out, eleven years living in the same geographic region means that I have many more possessions than I thought I did. I’ve been afraid of keeping and discarding the wrong ones. Afraid that I’ll regret my choices. I’ve been holding on to things so long I don’t even know what I have, and I’m clinging to it all as though the number of possessions I have – and the degree to which I’m prepared by having things on hand for any imaginable situation – defines my worth.
But Jesus says not to fear, because our Father has treasure for us that will not fade, rot, expire, rust, or become obsolete. I have been ascribing eternal worth to things that only have limited, earthly worth. My most valuable possessions – my journals, photographs, computer files, keepsakes, favorite items of clothing, knitting supplies – are of absolutely no value when looked at through the lens of God’s kingdom. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” My heart has not been fully with God – it has been held captive by my need to have security in my material belongings.
Not making my stuff my treasure is hard, as a writer and an artist. I pour myself out into my writing, my journals, my crafts, my paintings and drawings, and I find it difficult to part with those things, even if I’m just sending most of them off to stay with my parents until I can retrieve them. Then letting go of the supplies – blank journals, paints, yarn, drawing paper – was necessary but difficult. So much of my self-identity is built on what I create, what I can tangibly contribute to the world.
Fortunately, my self-identity isn’t the most important identity I have. My identity as a child of God is!
I am learning to let go, one step at a time. I finally said goodbye of two of my most favorite series of children’s fantasy – The Time Quintet by Madeline L’Engle and The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper – to make room for other books that would be more difficult to find in a public library. That was a pretty big deal, putting those in the “donate” box. For a long time, they were my go-to reading material for times like this when everything is unfamiliar, unsettled, and uncertain. Saying “I don’t need this” was freeing. It feels like I’m tearing down a wall between me and God, letting him shine His grace onto me more with each brick I remove.
Lord, I don’t need familiar books to hold on to when the world is strange. I am turning away from the distractions of my former ways, little by little. I want You alone to be my cornerstone and my refuge. I want You to be the place I turn when I need to hide and rest.