Lately I have been going through the Refiner’s fire. It seems like it is just one thing after another. Thursday night through last night I spent a significant amount of time going through everything I own and boxing up all that I was selling (which is about 90% of the things I own). I boxed up my movies just like God asked me to and some friends came over and helped me move everything over to another friend’s house for a garage sale this morning. I think I have been through a whirlwind of emotions.
So I set up for the garage sale early this morning and when I was almost finished setting up (which took me an hour), the rain started pouring down and didn’t stop until the garage sale had ended and I was on my way home. Part way through, a couple friends came and joined me and I was there for a total of about five and a half hours. We had ONE CUSTOMER. He bought my bike and some Lego’s. Everything else is still at my friend’s house.
Part of me was so angry at the whole situation. I went through a myriad of emotions just working through the concept of selling all my things. I’ve told several people that I feel like I’m digressing back to college life. I graduated from college and accumulated the normal things for an apartment, and now I am selling all my things to live in a dorm again. Until you have actually done something like this, you have no idea how difficult it is to do. I am ashamed at how difficult it has been to let certain things go.
Then I got to the point where I could have the garage sale, and the whole morning was filled with torrential downpour. For a couple hours I sat on the couch contemplating what on earth God is doing. This instance alone was not nearly as big of a deal as it is combined with so many other things. A couple days ago, my car battery died. My internet in my apartment stopped working. The internet on my phone was in and out as usual. The car charger for my phone stopped working. Friends committed to helping me and at the last minute backed out. People committed to certain purchases and then later backed out. People keep forgetting to call me about stuff. All these little things over the past 24 hours added up this morning and I sat on the couch today feeling the loneliest that I have felt in a long time.
I told my friend this morning that I feel like God is ripping away pieces of myself; a chunk here and a chunk there. It’s a mess. I can only hope that when He’s done, all that is left is all that really matters. Honestly, if I have learned anything in the past few weeks, I have learned that I have no clue what is going on. I have learned that I have so much to learn and understand. I have also learned that there is much that I cannot understand about God and about myself. I have found that in certain moments I will be under the impression that I am completely fine, then a comment will come out of my mouth and I’m left thinking, “Where on earth did THAT come from?” It’s a scary feeling when you realize you’re so overwhelmed that you weren’t even aware of it.
Part of the struggle has been that I am still working full-time while moving and going through things and fundraising for support. I leave the States, Lord willing, two months from tomorrow and God is slowly working His miracle. The last week of any job is difficult, because your heart has moved on already, yet you still feel the need to give that 110% to what you are doing. It takes twice as much effort as it used to. My life never stops, and my brain never stops, even in the middle of the night. I haven’t slept a full night in I don’t know how long…definitely have not had more than four or five hours of sleep in a night for at least two weeks. The other night I dreamed that I was dreaming and I had to wake up twice. I am an introvert, yet I have had to spend nearly every waking moment in the past week communicating with customers at work or supporters on the phone. It is easy to get discouraged right now as I have no idea how much support I have and it seems so insufficient so far. Waiting and trusting is tough, and the deadline is looming. I have been working at it night and day. I am exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally.
A couple tears escaped my eyes this morning. I was trying so hard to hold it in. I didn’t know what I wanted (besides sleep). I am not very good company right now because I’m so wound tight, and while I am so tired of communicating constantly, I still want someone around. I figured out that I really needed to take the time and listen to what God might be saying. I needed to keep the ears of my heart turned in. God showed me over the past couple days how much of what I valued and desired is meaningless.
The main thought in my head as I was going through my things was the conviction that I had been living in sin by having so much stuff. That sounds very extreme to Americans who will quickly say, “It’s not the stuff that is the sin, but the love of stuff.” I wonder, however, how many of us Americans can really separate ourselves from our stuff? I thought it would be a fairly easy thing to put things in boxes and send them on their merry way. I really believed that. I was so wrong. Today I thought back to the story in Matthew 19 about the rich young ruler:
“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’
‘Which ones?’ the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’
Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’
Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.’”
This was the command that Jesus gave the rich young ruler: sell all your stuff and give to the poor. THEN come follow me. That is the command that He gave me. I’m trying to do that.
In the middle of all this that I am personally going through, God showed me part of the bigger picture today. One of the friends that came to help me out today at the garage sale went home to find her apartment flooded. Right now she and her husband are going through their stuff. Much of it is ruined, I am sure. Then, a good friend of mine from back home was taken to the emergency room this afternoon. They’re running tests, and we are praying that they come back alright. In perspective of these things, I am ashamed at how selfish I have been. It seems pointless. It seems meaningless. I have been wallowing in my own problems and issues.
God has pointed out something that I must remember from now on in my life: real life is difficult, messy, full of ups and downs, but worth it. Stress isn’t worth it. It’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up on the small things. I am the type that likes to plan ahead in order to be sure that all the bases are covered. However, things rarely happen as we plan them and are rarely as bad as they seem. One step at a time. Allowing myself to become overwhelmed is meaningless.
Because real life is difficult, messy, full of ups and downs, but worth it, I must learn to see whatever happens as normal. Sometimes I can get so caught up in comparing one situation to another and giving myself an excuse to be concerned about it. Well, this thing is so much bigger of a problem than this thing…etc. However, whether I am here in the States handling a garage sale or working overseas with orphans who have life-threatening illnesses, I must remember that this is life: plain and simple. I should not take pride in any situation but rather see it as just another day and another opportunity.
So many things that have mattered to me are meaningless, and it is all about perspective. The things that I own or do not own is a meaningless thing, and until I learn to view it that way, I will not be able to serve Christ well. The things that I do for God have no ranking as better or worse than other things I could be doing. Selling all my things is not anything special, it is just another thing I am doing for God. I have been making such a ridiculously big deal about it. I need to let it go. I must live my life in such a way that every decision I make, whether big or small is met with the same intensity of devotion and love for God above anything else regardless of my attitude or struggle with the situation. All that I am doing, no matter how glorious or mundane these things may be, are simply the things I am doing for God, nothing more. There is nothing romantic or exalting about it. I am helpless without God. I am nothing without Christ. In Him, I have the honor to serve and to love. It is only by grace that I have or am anything, and it is only by this grace that anything I could possibly do for God matters. To see it any other way is to enter into the meaningless. The only thing in life that has meaning is God’s love and how I live my life in response to that love. Audrey Assad says in one of her songs, “All my pride, it doesn’t stand a chance against the way You move.” I need to get myself out of the way so God may enter in and do the work He longs to do.
What happens to myself is meaningless. I remembered that when those I care about went through some difficult times today. I started reading the book Kisses from Katie and I was convicted of how comfortable I have become in my selfishness and how much I have lost sight of the spirit of prayer I must have. I can talk day after day about how I want to serve God, and I can make it sound all flowery and pretty like I have it all figured out…and then suddenly I realize that I haven’t sat down and truly spent time with God in a while. Talk is cheap on any level, especially when I haven’t taken the time to truly back it up in prayer. The longer I go without spending deep intentional time with God, the less passion I feel in my heart for the things He has called me to do and the more selfishness and hypocrisy I see creeping into my life. Tonight I seriously need to repent…I need to ask God for forgiveness once again because I have been allowing other things to distract me and to matter to me more than my time with Him. It doesn’t matter what it is; when it stands in the way of my relationship with Him, that is sin.
As I am going through this time in the Refiner’s fire and God is literally ripping away parts of myself that need to go, I am learning so much about what is important and what is meaningless. It is a process, and I am sure that some of the things I have learned today, God will sharpen, hone, or maybe even change my view. I give Him permission to do that. I am such a small child in His arms, and my understanding of His ways are childish and developing. I will never have it all figured out, and I am not trying to have it all figured out. I am simply trying to learn as much as I can every day that I am on this journey with Him. I want Him to use my life as best He can with as little resistance as possible. It is a daily struggle and surrender, but in all things, deep joy.