Recently I read a story about a young man who survived World War II Europe. All his worldly goods fit into a small brown suitcase: a change of clothes, his grandfather’s .38 caliber pistol, and his sister’s Bible. My first reaction, in the midst of “spring cleaning” (a chore that takes all year and then some), was “Oh, what a blessing to be so unencumbered!” I also recalled an observation I made early in my nursing career, visiting the home of a nursing colleague who was nearing retirement age.
Her home was beautiful and something to be desired. Obviously, the result of many years and dollars invested, it was her treasure. But, her sons were grown and her husband gone and her treasure had become a concern. Would her sons be available to help her with projects beyond her abilities in maintaining her home, she wondered. It struck me as a shock that here she was with her dream home when her dreams were behind her. When she sold her home and moved to an apartment, I grieved for her. I also pondered an ongoing question: What is it all for? It seemed like such a waste to spend one’s life making a lovely home, only to have it all vanish like a fog at sunrise.
Some people seem to have an easier time of eliminating the inconsequentials of life. The comment I heard about an elderly missionary couple living in the nursing home where I worked was that nobody could give them anything. They just gave it all away. Even in their declining years, they were satisfied with very little: she had her Bible, from which she continued to read aloud to more feeble residents, and he had his violin to accompany his wife singing hymns.
In all reality, however, it is almost impossible to avoid the cares of this world. Even our daughter-in-law, who once boasted that she had traveled the world with only her Bible and her toothbrush, has had to accumulate the necessities of life in caring for her six children! What we cannot avoid, however, we must learn to hold onto loosely. Otherwise we run the risk of making idols of our preoccupations (whether “things” or even other people). God does not look with favor on our golden calves: “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
We all need the focus of those bigger dreams that come with the Great Commission! We need to keep our eyes on the real prize, something that continues long after our retirement. “...seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith....” we read in Hebrews. That’s the prescription for runners in a race, who make better time when they don’t have extra baggage to carry. That’s an admonition for all of us, to learn how to travel light, free of the distraction of things that only divert our attention, take up our time and dilute our mission. Whatever things we have, whatever it is we need to do our work, it all belongs to God, anyway. He is our Great Provision and He will supply the resources for us to accomplish the job He has called us to do. So, we pray, keep us in line with Your will, dear Lord, so we don’t waste anything that is precious in your sight, and we don’t become so preoccupied with the tools that we forget the reason You gave them to us!
The world defines success as “he who dies with the most toys wins.” So, what good did it accomplish, when he cannot take his toys with him? The only success we need, whether we travel our wilderness journey, here below, with nothing more than a lonely little brown suitcase or with nothing less than a loaded big red moving van, is “...if we walk in the light, as he (Jesus) is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)