I like pretty things. I collect pretty things. Amongst others, I have a large collection of hairbands. I own a pair of Marni shoes that have only been worn a couple of times as I consider them more art than functional footwear. I also collect napkin rings, which I realize is slightly unusual. And I have a Karen Millen leather coat from my Mom that is undoubtedly one of my favourite possessions ever.
Your list is probably quite different. Maybe you cherish a carefully curated record collection, or an antique piece of furniture. Or maybe you collect sunglasses, or own a beautiful set of golf clubs. Whatever your own list of personal treasures is I know you have prized possessions. We all do.
Throughout history there have been numerous theological and philosophical ideologies purporting that we should not care about earthly belongings. Indeed this ideology of possessions being evil is often closely associated with spirituality. Certainly the whole relationship of self to possessions is a prominent and inevitable part of life. Regardless of how much cognitive energy you’ve put into appraising your own relationship with your possessions, the fact is that you will have been influenced and indoctrinated to some extent into one stance or another.
So what relationship should we have with our possessions? Are we right to care about them? Indeed, should we even have “stuff”?
This subject has been particularly prevalent in my mind in the last few months as I moved four times in just one year. More than once while packing up moving boxes for the enth time the idea of just getting rid of everything I own and living out of a suitcase has seemed eminently appealing. But then I remember that this “stuff” represents so much of God’s provision, and things that God has called me to steward over, as originated in Genesis 2:15. And I know that much of this “stuff” represents part of my story.
I’ve noticed that I tend to oscillate between this sporadic desire to just throw away the responsibilities that come with stewardship, with this intense desire to hoard my belongings with an avarice that would put Scrooge to shame. At those times I can’t help but think that I don’t so much have my possessions so much as they have me.
During my latest move I was pondering this dichotomy that I seem to be torn between, either extreme being to my detriment. I observed the lack of joy I had in this area. And then I felt God point something out. He said: “One day you’re going to loose all of this stuff anyway. So why not already accept when you receive these gifts that they’re just yours to enjoy for a season?” For me this was a paradigm shift in the whole way I viewed my belongings. I suddenly went from seeing my belongings as items that I “possessed” to items that are merely in my hands for a season.
Since I’ve been following God’s advice on this matter I’ve found that my enjoyment of my possessions has greatly increased. Now that I’ve accepted the reality that I won’t have these items forever I’m so much more aware of the importance of fully enjoying them and giving thanks for them today. And I don’t have so much of a crushing sense of having to fight against reality by trying to cling onto these things. Since admitting that there will come a day when my possessions will pass into other hands I feel I have been set free into the relationship with them that I was designed for. For the first time in my life I understand what it means to be a steward, not an owner.
They say that health and healing comes from moving further into reality. So if you haven’t done it yet I encourage you to move into reality in the area of possessions. Be set free of strife and enjoy the blessings of today by accepting what will inevitably happen one day!
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