a wise man once said to me

He probably doesn’t remember that conversation. But his words continue to rebuke and instruct me 30 years later. As I sat across a table from this Wise Man in the Student Union at the University of New Mexico, he looked straight in my eyes and said, “Finiteness is not a sin.”

I heard the voice of that Wise Man speak to me again this past week. (Sometimes those tapes in your head are a good thing!) I had to face facts:
I can’t do everything I thought I could in this transition. I don’t have to. It’s not a sin. That Wise Man taught me that we are made to be finite. “And it was good.” It’s part of the nature of being human; something to be embraced and appreciated. My mental, emotional, and physical capacities, while capable of a good deal, are limited by design. And that’s good. My spiritual capacity is great enough to be touched by and commune with God. But not infinite. Not God. Fighting that fact (says the Wise Man) is the sin.

Last week I realized I was expecting myself to be something other than human.
Physically, I had slogged for weeks getting ready for a garage sale, a shipment, a still undiscovered renter, and the flight out.
Mentally I was taxed to the max dealing with government bureaucracies, creating a new business, beginning a book, starting my son in a new kind of school, organizing our departure and our home, pushing past my natural and learned abilities in managing details only because of the fear of consequences should I drop any of the bazillions of tiny balls.

Emotionally shut down, already overloaded with the griefs, fears and fatigue of transition. My heart almost bursting with the barrage of what another Wise Man met in more recent years calls “love deposits” – the kindnesses of friends which only make it more clear what we are losing by leaving.
My soul merely going along for the ride now, unable to discern if I’m really in tune with God in these days or not. Feeling that though God is present, our interactions are more like that of business partners than lovers.

Last Wed. I realized I was expecting myself to be something other than finite when I found myself debating whether to jump off the cliff into the abyss of despair or just feign sickness so I could lay in bed, hoping others would take over. Thankfully, the Wise Man’s words came back to me. With that confession, not of sin, but of the truth that “I can’t do all of this”, came the realization that there must be an alternative. So I made a phone call. The Wise Woman on the other end of the line said, “Don’t worry. I’m here to help you.” She had an excellent sanity-saving solution that pulled me back from the cliff and gave me room to breath.

I’m learning a lot through this current experience of moving from here to there. 1 of them is an old lesson taught to me long ago by a Wise Man. I have limits. I can’t do this alone. And that’s not sin.

Here’s to the many good people in our lives who are eager and able to help us. You are speaking volumes to me in these days about the meaning of friendship, the value of community, and the goodness of being finite. I need you. And that, it turns out, is a really good thing.

Do you have a Bible? Read the first chapter: Genesis 1.
List all of the things in that chapter that have limits.
What’s God’s assessment of those things?
What good do you experience every day because of those finite things?
Thank God for them. And for finiteness, without which we couldn’t experience the sensations of the physical world, the goodness of relationship, or God made flesh in the person of Jesus.


postscript, for what it's worth

My husband looked for apts for 6 more days. Oddly, he was taken back to that same building 3 more times by 2 different real estate agents to see 3 other apts. on 3 different days. He made offers for several apts, in that building and in others. None were accepted. Until last Sunday.

Just before he had to leave the country on a business trip, an owner accepted his offer. Where's our new place? In that same building we cried over the previous Sunday. The 4th apt. of it's kind my husband had seen. Why the circuitous route? We'll probably never know. But what I do know is that we have a place to call "home" now on the other side of the planet. And that's worth alot.


what's it worth to you?

It didn’t rain all summer. Til the weekend of my garage sale.

My last summer in beautiful Wisconsin has been spent inside with all the stuff we’ve thought important enough to fill up our house and our lives. I worked like a dog to haul everything out of closets, drawers and forgotten corners. I expended valuable mental, emotional and physical energy sorting it all into piles of “what to take”, “what to ship”, “what to sell”, “what to toss” until every visible space was full of jumbled treasures and our garage became a heap of garage-sale-worthy stuff.

A friend who’s had a storage shed full of her own dear stuff from life long ago came from Florida to sort out her own past and put what she thought valuable for others in our mammoth garage sale. We spent money on newspaper ads. We risked craigslist. We spent days in the garage cleaning, sorting and ticketing. To make some money. And to get rid of our ridiculous amount of stuff with a bit less guilt.

The big day finally came. I like rain just as much as the next person. I love the flash and thunder of a good storm. But it ruined our garage sale.

Sunday was supposed to be sunny – mostly – so I decided to skip church in the hopes of making a few more dollars. I did. But it was a lot of work on a steamy, hot day. (I hate to calculate how much I made per hour!) My garage is still full. I’m frustrated. And mad. Sure, some cash has been added to my bank account. But I’m no less free of all that ridiculous stuff. It means more time and energy to rid myself of it – time and energy I don’t have 3 weeks before leaving the country.

Yesterday I was even more frustrated by some bad news from the other side of the planet. My husband’s been in our new city for 6 weeks. He spent his energies and time last week looking for a place for us to live. We were surprised and thrilled when he found the perfect place for a nearly perfect price. So we prayed. Our dear friends prayed. And my dear husband began the negotiations. At the last minute the apt. was given to someone else. Someone who could pay the entire year’s rent in advance.

I cried my guts out.
Disappointed. Yes. But more than that.
Grieved. I felt we’d lost something valuable.
Angry. I was so sure that God was going to answer our prayers. So confident that He would give us this place that was far beyond what we’d even imagined. We were overjoyed to think that God would give us such an amazing gift as we begin our new life. But we were wrong. And I was mad. Mad at God.

As I cried from fatigue and fury, a question surfaced from the back of my mind: Why aren’t we good enough to be given something good? What’s wrong with us? Others get good stuff. Why can’t we? But I had no energy – or willingness – to engage with God over that question. I’d spent all my energy on digging out stuff, on the drudgery of sorting, and on the dreaded letting go of it all. I could do nothing but cry and collapse on the couch at the end of what had become a horrible day.

I had planned on going to church Sunday evening. I almost always have a tangible encounter with God there. But by Sunday afternoon I didn’t really want to be around God. I didn’t want to pretend it was all ok. But I asked my son to find out what the sermon was about. I fully expected to feel disconnected with the topic and add that to my list of good excuses for not going.

My dear son looked up the sermon text, then carried my Bible down to me as I lay like a dishrag on the couch. I read:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?...So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6)”

I had to laugh out loud through my tears. I’m important enough to my Father for Him to answer questions I’m too upset to discuss. I’m so valuable to God that He will come to me though I refuse to go to Him. God is not upset by my questions or offended by my anger.

I still don’t get it. Why can’t have that apt.? But after hearing Jesus’ sermon to me last night I know it’s not because we’re not good enough. It’s because we’re worth more to God than all of the stuff we surround ourselves with and work so hard to hold on to. He knows what I need. He wants to give it to me. I guess my hands are not empty enough yet to receive all that He has to give.

Today I still have to deal with stuff. But it doesn’t feel as big to me now.
Tomorrow we’ll still need a place to live. But I can see that the worry and frustration and anger I spent so much on the past few days isn’t worth it. I want to use all that energy today to thank God for what He’s already given us. Including His promise of good things to come.

I’ve always been fascinated by George Muller, a German missionary who ministered to orphans in England in the mid-1800’s. He lived out Matthew 6 every day, sometimes calling the children to sit for a meal without having food to put on the table. As they took their needs to God together, inevitably someone would appear at the door with food enough to feed them all.

I’ve admired Muller’s faith. And his willingness to live on the edge, trusting God for everything needed in the next moment. While I hoped never to have to imitate him, right now I’m grateful for this real life example not just of a man’s faith, but of God’s faithfulness.

Get up and take a walk inside your house.
Look into all of the cupboards, closets and crannies. Try to see – really see – what’s there. Where did it come from? How long have you had it? How long has it been since you’ve even noticed it? What purpose is it serving (emotionally as well as functionally)?
What feelings and thoughts surface as you view the things that fill up your house and your life? Write them down.
What questions come to mind about yourself? about God? Ask God your questions, if you can.
Get ready for Him to answer them, in any case!

This past week many loving hands schlepped stuff into public view in the early morning or hurriedly shoved it all back into the garage when the rains came. A few thoughtful hands offered meals or just dropped by to hug us and cheer us on. Several supportive hands came – even in the rain – for a friendly chat and to buy stuff. In the stress of leaving our beloved stuff and our wonderful life, our dear friends are showing us just how dear they are.