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.