Originally published Tuesday, 29 July 2014.
My plan was to stay for six months.
Until that moment, I had never before packed my life into two suitcases. What a chore it was to decide which of my possessions would be deemed worthy of viewing the sights of Cape Town.
I remember laying out the candidates on the carpet of my bedroom floor, agonizing over which items would make the cut. Should I take that framed picture? What about that sweater? Will I want to read that book while I’m there? What about that necklace? What if it gets stolen, or lost? I pored over the decision, then jumped and stomped and laid on my luggage trying to get its bulging sides to zip closed.
Back then, I was allowed to have two bags, and the weight allowance was fifty pounds per bag. That’s 100 pounds of stuff. Forty-five kilograms of stuff that I was convinced I couldn’t live without for 180 consecutive days.
Stuff I hoped would remind me of home.
It’s embarrassing now, looking back and realizing my own ignorance and wealth in comparison to so many in the world. I met people in South Africa who don’t even have enough cumulative possessions to fill one suitcase, let alone two. And there I was, on numerous occasions over the next decade, emotionally torn over having to bid farewell to certain sentimental belongings.
My insides ached the day I watched two elderly volunteers lock up the back of a local charity truck, the contents of which housed the last of my mother’s earthly possessions. I watched the loaded truck drive away with part of me. So many memories wrapped up in those curtains that traveled with us from house to house; that blue leather couch, all scratched up by the cats’ claws, where I’d doze off during almost every movie that ever played on the huge, box television screen. Belongings that defined home for so many years — a closed chapter, never to be repeated.
But, as they say, you’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-haul, right?
A while back I watched the movie, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Two hours of my life wasted and gone forever.
But there were a few lines worth quoting, one of which I myself have uttered in the past six months.
The main character, Liz Gilbert, decides to spend a year traveling to Italy, India and Bali. Before she leaves, she boxes up all of her worldly possessions and packs them into a rented storage unit. As the employee is about to close the garage door, Liz sighs and says forlornly, “My whole life fits into a 12×12 box.”
The mover rolls his eyes and says condescendingly, “Lady? You know how many times I hear people say that in a week? And most of ‘em don’t come back for their ‘whole life.’”
I can totally relate. I get so sentimentally attached, and need to remember what Jesus taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When my kids are upset over a broken toy, a ripped drawing, or a lost book, I try to show my sympathy while still reminding them of the bigger picture. After all, we can’t take it to heaven, can we?
It’s a lesson I’m still cementing in the wet foundation of my faith. The familiar hymn, Rock of Ages, helps: “Nothing in my hands I bring; only to thy cross I cling.”
In his book, In Light of Eternity, Randy Alcorn gives a helpful perspective:
“Christ calls us to turn it around. He says to store up our treasures in heaven, not earth. That way, every day that brings us closer to our death brings us closer to our treasures. Instead of backing away from our treasures, we can spend our lives moving toward our treasures.
He who spends his life moving away from his treasures has reason to despair. He who spends his life moving toward his treasures has reason to rejoice.”
Which one are you? The one moving toward, or away from your treasures?
Particularly in times of preparation for a move or a stint overseas, it’s easy to cling to our treasured possessions here on earth. In times like those, I’ve found this quote by E.M. Bounds to be very thought-provoking:
“Great earthly attachments lessen heavenly attachments. The heart which indulges itself in great earthly loves will have less for heaven. God’s great work and often His most afflictive and chastening work is to unfasten our hearts from earth and fasten them to heaven, to break up and desolate the earthly home that we may seek a home in heaven.”
Before my initial move to South Africa, as I agonized over which items would make the cut and earn space in my suitcase, I was most concerned about things that would remind me of home.
May the Lord change my perspective and help me care most about looking forward to my eternal Home.
Photo Credit: Kristen Taylor, Flickr Creative Commons