How Living with Less Has Brought Me More Freedom
In the film, Eat, Pray, Love, 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 12x12 box."
The mover rolls his eyes and remarks 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 could’ve been Liz Gilbert in that scene.
I, too, have packed my “whole life” into a 12x12 storage unit, sighing as the door slammed closed.
A month before I turned twenty-one, I moved to Africa. In the next ten years, I moved nine more times, including another move back across the Atlantic. Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of packing boxes and making decisions about worldly possessions.
Every time I moved, I had the same inner struggle: my heartstrings would ache from having to give up certain material goods and say goodbye to earthly treasures that I simply couldn't take with me.
I often get so ridiculously caught up in the sentimental value, the walks down memory lane, and the possibilities for using those art supplies 'one day' ... and then they sit there in Rubbermaid totes, locked up in storage, unseen. Unused.
I’ve spent many occasions asking myself: Is my 'whole life' boxed up in a garage? Or is it measured in other ways?
Why does it hurt so much to leave certain possessions behind? Why do I hold so tightly to things I can’t take with me to heaven?
It all boils down to perspective. I need God’s help in training my mind to be focused on eternity. To actually dwell on it, not just give it a passing thought every once in a while.
It grates against my nature, but Colossians 3:2 implores readers to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” When I’m wondering if my “whole life” fits into a storage unit, the verse that follows reminds me that my “life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
In a very real sense, my life is not here. It’s tucked away in eternity, safely guarded by the seal of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:22), where Christ has gone to prepare a place for me (John 14:2-3).
If I really believe that, then I have to conclude that everything I really need is in heaven. Deuteronomy 30 says, "... the Lord is your life ..." – not the set of your grandmother’s china, or the dress you wore as an infant for that special occasion, or even the scrapbook of your firstborn’s earliest days.
Though it has been a slow, somewhat cyclical process, I've come to accept the fact that our treasure is not here on earth. As Christians, we are told to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
What about you? Are you a Liz Gilbert? Where is your treasure stored?
Every time I pack for another move, I’m stunned by how much stuff I’ve managed to accumulate. It’s shocking, really. And what’s the point of it all?
I could be saving items that I think I might use one day, or memorabilia I’d like my children to have when they grow up … or I could be investing in eternal things, like giving abundantly to support church ministry, missionaries on the field, Compassion International children, etc. The possibilities are endless.
The fact of the matter is, if you invest money somewhere, then your personal interest is also invested in the same place. If you give to AIDS orphans in South Africa, you have an interest in what is happening there. If you sponsor a child in Honduras, you care about that child’s welfare and development. If you pour concrete in your backyard for a tennis court, you’ll make sure that people respect your property and don’t damage it on purpose.
I’m not saying that we can’t spend money on ourselves or our families. I think what’s important is the heart. If our hearts are tightly entangled around the sentimental value of things we don’t really need, or greedily gathering up possessions for our own pleasure, we might need to recalibrate.
Even though our bodies are still physically here on earth, it’s possible to have our hearts and minds dwelling in heaven. It’s possible to have a huge impact on eternity by making wise choices with the gifts and resources that God grants to us in this lifetime. Remember, storage units and the boxes that line the back wall of your garage are temporary. There is a bigger picture.
Let’s ask the Lord to help us hold our earthly possessions loosely, and focus on the eternal.
For discussion: What practical things have you done to actively set your mind on eternity?
Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.