One Sunday I walked in to church and walked out without my shoes. Our pastor asked us to give our coat and our shoes that day to folks who needed them more than we did. Pretty much after those words came out of his mouth, I spent the next 30 minutes hearing him say: “blah, blah, blah, blah.” All I could think was how could the new campus pastors’ wife get out of church with her shoes and hoodie ON while everyone else shucked their shoes and coats???
Here’s the thing: I love to give…on my terms. The navy blue honeycomb hoodie (an old navy clearance item) was truly my most favorite hoodie I have ever owned…to this day. (I have never found a replacement–although I did ashamedly–go online and to every store within a 30 mile radius to find it!) Not too heavy not too light it was PEFECT. The shoes were these cute little brown $40.00 slip ons. They were about as much as I spend on shoes…top end in my mind. I stood there frozen ignoring every word Mike said, trying to figure out an escape route. I agonized a good part of the service and at the end Mike said, “Hey you do not need to do this…it is just a matter of asking yourself do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you?” Zinger. Ouch. You cut me deep Mike…real deep.
So with a HEAVY heart I went to pick up Kylee and decided that we would together give our items away. Apparently, I needed my 3 year old for moral support! Kylee was wearing the cutest pink gap hoodie. It was a hand me down but one of the softest sweetest hoodies that she owned…please note she did have another hoodie. She also was wearing adorable patten leather shoes. Kylee and I walked to the pile that was taller than she was, and I began to take off my shoes and jacket. I explained what we were doing and that we were going to give our things to others who needed them more than we did. Kylee immediately got big alligator tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, but I love my coat and it is my favorite color!” I just about lost it right there! She battled for about 15 minutes standing in front of the pile. I didn’t want to take her things off for her–I wanted her to put them on the pile herself. At some point in this exchange I begin to cry because I realize that my desire to hold tightly to my things has clearly been passed down, like a bad habit, to my daughter. As tears are rolling down my face all I can think is–I must teach generosity to my kids. Generosity God’s way–not when it is convenient or easy–generosity when it stings a little–or a lot. I must figure out a way to not cling to things…they are after all things. I fought the entire time to say to her, “don’t worry we will get you another one!” Knowing that was NOT the point of the exercise! After many minutes (which felt like hours), Kylee finally let go of her hoodie and shoes and we walked to our cars with bare feet and battered hearts.
On the drive home my mind shifted to my husband who had attended a different service. His mother had recently passed away–but she was the type of woman who would have stripped down practically naked in the middle of church to ensure that others were cared for and provided for…she never held tightly to her things. Like mother, like son. But instead of relishing that thought, I stewed in the fact of how easy it must have been for Chris to shuck his shoes! When we got home I told him the entire saga with Kylee and how sick I was that I somehow have given her a “gene of greediness” and told him most sarcastically how he just wouldn’t understand since “things” don’t have a hold on him! He looked at me square in the face and said, “Actually Jenni, I gave up my Dutch Boys.” Dutch Boys were the nickname that his mother had given his shoes…the last material item that she had purchased for her son before her death. I wanted to crawl underneath the table in shame. Seriously, did I just say that? I realized that there are many different levels of sacrifice in this life. God knew better than to ask me for the last thing that Elaine gave me because I would have told him NO! He asked for my favorite comfy hoodie…and for my most expensive pair of shoes. My husband on the other hand (who clearly can handle more) was asked for something different…but it went back to the same question: do I own this thing or does it own me??
I am embarrassed to report that the shoe/hoodie lesson occured almost 4 years ago. It seems that God patiently teaches me the same lessons over and over again in my life. Here I am 4 years later looking at simplicity and excess and having to re-learn not to hold too tightly to my things. I pray that as we continue to purge I will learn the lesson better this time. And I if I don’t, when I walk in to your home, please ask me to walk out without my shoes. Alas, we all need reminders. Clearly some of us more than others!
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!