Aug 6, 2013

Little Red Wagon

There is a street in my neighborhood that I avoid.  Perhaps all older neighborhoods have one of these streets; where the collective inhabitants have lapsed into apathy and exterior maintenance defeat.  The yards are more weed than grass, the shrubbery overgrown, the natural areas sport thousands of baby trees; no one has put out mulch for a decade.  It has a neglected feel and I always get the vibe that the people that live there are struggling.  I do enough of my own struggling, so I tend to avoid taking on more.  I haven't been down there in several years.

Today, the Lord prompted me to take that path.  I had just turned the corner and was expecting to be as frustrated as I usually was on this particular lane when I saw a neighbor had cut a huge bunch of bamboo.  There is a floor vase sitting empty in my house and bamboo was just the thing!  "Hmmm," I thought, "I listened to the Lord and right off the bat I got a gift!"  I inspected the piles, they were cut in perfect four foot sections and there were dozens of pieces to choose from.  I started to pick up a couple but freshly cut bamboo is heavier than you think.  I continued the walk but decided to return home for my little red wagon.

To my surprise, the street was in much better shape than it's been in years.  Some houses still need major landscape revisions but the feeling of hopelessness that had pervaded was no longer present.  One of the neighbors has built a spectacular water garden in their front yard and it seems to have prompted the rest to at least make an effort.  The mature trees gave the road a cool, shady feel; I was pleasantly surprised.  Overall, the morning walk was a peaceful and productive venture.

So I high tailed it home to procure my red wagon and retrieve my "treasure".  As I headed back out, I noticed that the wagon was loud!  Pulling it behind me, it made a terrible racket.  It disturbed the peace, drowned out the singing birds, and the church bells.  I could barely hear myself think and I certainly could not hear the still small voice.  Driving it in grass offered no improvement and made the footfalls uncertain.  The faster I walked, the louder it got.

My Little Red Wagon
Several years ago, we were treated to a sermon about how we pull our sins behind us, like bags of dung.  We know that we are forgiven but refuse to forgive ourselves and others.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard of forgiveness than God does and we pull our sink behind us.  Think of how arrogant that is.... Hilariously, the Pastor painted a picture of the size of the dung heaps we pulled behind, some had a small paper bag, some a bucket, and some a wagon.  Unfortunately, some of us have a pick up, and others have a tractor trailer.  What are you pulling behind you?  What stinking pile of dung do you need to leave by the side of the road?

I pondered dung for a moment but that was not my lesson for the day.  The Lord prompts us to be obedient and ask for forgiveness everyday.  Emptied before him, I have worked very hard to leave dead stuff alone.  No I wasn't carrying dung behind me, I had an empty wagon.  What then?  Then it hit me, my destination was stuff... I never think of stuff without thinking of the classic George Carlin bit. His perspective on stuff is spot on.  (I'm not putting a link here because it has really foul language, but if you can stomach his filthy mouth, check it out.)

Anyway, I realized how much harder it is to hear God and find peace when we are in pursuit of possessions.  When the purpose of our journey is to get things we miss the serenity of the walk.  We can not think because the noise drowns everything else out.  These folks are in chains, their lives have become a constant quest for the next thing that is going to make them happy.  Possessions cause a ton of futile work: you buy the stuff, put the stuff together, learn how to use the stuff, store the stuff, repair the stuff, clean the stuff, worry if someone breaks or steals your stuff, talk about your new stuff, and lust after the next and the newest.  They buy bigger houses than they really need to have room for all everything.  They rent storage units to hold their extra stuff and when they die nobody wants their junk!  The Lord is very clear in Matthew 6:19-20 “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. The constant lust for possessions crowds out charity, generosity, and enslaves those walking this path.  Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 

I prayed, "Are you asking me to give up my worldly possessions?"  The thought was uncomfortable.  I don't love my stuff like some but I do like it.... He then opened my eyes in a very personal way, I have surrendered my stuff to him on a number of occasions.  The first time when my husband lost his job and took up pro-bono prison ministry - we gave God our stuff and said we will follow Him.  He released us from the curse of the Name it and Claim it.  The second time we gave up our stuff was because the "gift" we had acquired in our Name it and Claim it days had become an albatross and the load was too heavy to carry.  He released us from the overwhelming worry and burden.  The third time we gave up our stuff was when I lost my job a couple years ago, He showed us His hand of provision in the midst of the impossible.  No, this time he wasn't asking me to give up my stuff, I'd done that... "What then Lord?"  I asked.

"What will you do if I bless you?"  I thought for a moment and smiled, "I will offer you my stuff not as a surrender, not as someone who is willing to lose it for you, not as the World takes away, but as a crown I lay at your feet.  I will do this as an honor and a gift that I give back to you as an offering." I felt His pleasure; that was the answer He wanted to hear, that is what He wanted to teach me, and that was my lesson for the day. 

This life is a journey, it is a path that each of us must walk.  Your path will be different from mine but perhaps these are guideposts along the way.  Are you listening and obeying when the Lord prompts you to take a route even though you don't really want to go that way?  Are there gifts He wants to give you for obedience, if you would just listen?  Are you missing those blessings? Will you be pleasantly surprised that the path is much nicer than you expected?  Are you pulling your old sins, hurts, and failures behind you?  You can never ascend the high places pulling those burdens and you will smell bad...  Is your journey one to obtain possessions?  You will never have peace and quiet on that road.  You will spend you time in vain.  Have you surrendered your stuff to Him?  It is a terrible burden to pull behind you if you haven't.

There are no short cuts on this road, you do not get to jump on a high speed train and get to the end.  No, the road is long and at times difficult, perhaps these signs will help light the way. As for me, I long for the day when I lay it all at His feet.