Thick, white bread with a consistency like cotton wool was a once a week treat. Chocolate cake was about a twice a year treat. I played outside where streams of raw sewage would flow, and diaper-less children would squat any which way. Corners were places for beggars – hands stretched out, eyes downcast. My first movie was not ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ but ‘Chariots of Fire’. Brown paper wrapped parcels would arrive with much fanfare, after having travelled across many seas. The contents of them was not candy and treats, chocolate or clothes, no…those parcels contained vitamins and medicines. I hand-washed clothes for play, without realizing it was the only option we had, and when I checked my bed for snakes at nighttime, it wasn’t part of a game.
Fast forward 26 years. I still remember the sights, the smells and the sounds of living in such a different culture. I don’t begrudge my time in that place at all – in fact I’m the only one in my family who has been back to visit. I love that I know how blessed we are, in every way, in the first world culture we live in. Sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at the first world problems that surround ourselves here. Sometimes it makes me giggle. Sometimes it makes me groan. And sometimes I feel like shaking people and sending them on the first plane out of here……to smellier, dirtier, hungrier nations.
All this to say I have the benefit of experience. I can compare and know, really know, how very blessed we are. So I should know better….
The other day I was driving home from somewhere. And God spoke to me. God speaks to me most in the shower and in the car. On all accounts I should be a very clean but very distracted driver. I was coming home from being in a very gorgeous home and I allowed that thought of ‘I really loved that home and its beautiful decor, I wonder if I will ever have anything like that’ to linger just a bit too long. You know what I’m talking about. That thought just didn’t pop into my head and pop out…but it attached itself. UNTIL, a few minutes later (while I was still driving) God gently spoke these words to me….’You’ll never know what they sacrificed to get their house and belongings’. GAH!!! Talk about a slap in the face. Thanks God – its true – you never know what people sacrifice in their personal/ private/ spiritual lives.
Anyway – I thought that was that for that thought. I thought it had been dealt with. Not so. The next day I was doing a quick clean of the house and noticing ALL the stuff everywhere that shouldn’t have been everywhere and the fact that the sofa had been drawn on again etc. And I found myself saying the words aloud ‘We don’t deserve nice things, even if we had them, we would just ruin them’. And as soon as those words were out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back. I didn’t mean them. I know what I value the most in life – and things certainly aren’t them. I believe we should all hold ‘things’ very lightly in our hands and if someone needs something we have – then the best way to show God’s love is to give give give. Not keep keep keep. This is what I believe. Then why the ugly words and ugly thoughts?
All because I had allowed that thought (of envy – let’s call it what it is) to take up residence – even if it was just for that short amount of time.
I was so upset at myself for thinking and saying those things…that once again while in a car….God spoke again to me on this subject…..’Don’t waste precious time on things’. And he reminded me of how brief our time on this earth can be.
I can look back at Facebook account and already I have had five Facebook friends pass away. All due to different circumstances, but five people, all of them younger than 30, in fact all of them younger than twenty five. Life can be short.
I have no idea how much time on this earth I have. But I no longer want to even entertain thoughts for mere minutes on the subject matter of stuff. Stuff stuff stuff. Sy Roger tweeted this thought yesterday – ‘Why waste time envying my neighbor’s ‘greener grass’: God wont give it to me. Better that I appreciate & cultivate my own patch of potential’.
Cultivate my own potential. Yep. That’s what it is about my friends. Appreciate your most valuable assets – your family and friends and giftings God has given you, and then cultivating them. Reaching up and out.