The First Lesson
Up until this point, I thought I was pretty unconcerned with what the Bible calls temporal things. I was to find out I still had attachments to stuff. Sentimentality still had some sway over me.
I was in Haiti for several months. In high heat, intense sun, and medium humidity. I flew from the tropics into Colorado to spend a few days with my sister. It was snowy.
I often get sick when switching climates rapidly. That time it was not only I who suffered the shift. My phone, which hadn’t been backed up since I bought it a year prior, crashed. It was full of pictures, Nelson’s very first text to me, and thousands of conversations after that, contacts, data, and notes. No warning. No way to salvage anything.
I was crushed and tempted to be moody and complain. During the following week, it became clear that I will always be prone to disappointment if I put my hope in an earthly system. Jesus was showing me how temporary the things of this world are. Everything has its life span, and after it is gone. He alone endures. He is in every moment. Only when I am focused on Him can my focus remain present. This is how I can let go of things.
Lesson Number Two
If I had groaned through the first lesson, I was given a second chance. Seven months later, my phone was stolen in Haiti. Everything was lost. This time I held no false hope of fixing the situation. It was gone. I had to start over a second time.
Rather than moping around and groaning, I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. I spent the next week in Haiti without a phone and flew back to the US without a means of contact. The girls I had lived with were shocked, “How are you not upset?!” My answer revealed a change of heart since my last loss. “A phone is a tool and nothing more. And I am just glad it was my phone and not my life that was taken.” A miracle with how Haiti is these days!
I was learning to stay present– that the things of this life are here one moment gone the next. Though all those early conversations at the start of our love story were gone, the sweet results of those many hours are visible today. When I talk to my husband in his language, that has become our language. When I submit where I would have once stood up selfishly in protest. I don’t need the messages to remember how far we’ve come.
The Hardest Lesson Yet
Just when I thought I had passed the test of electronic losses. Something much worse happened. Again in Haiti, I plugged my hard drive into a foreign computer to print a file, and it contracted a virus. Suddenly 10 years of pictures, documents, all of my midwifery training material, notes and sketches, all of our visa document copies that would be needed again in the future. Over 100GB of data. All of it became inaccessible. Some got written over with malicious content.
I shed some tears and prayed that it would somehow be restored. It seemed unlikely. Then I remembered the first two tests in this area. I determined that if I had not passed before, this time, when it was a more difficult test, I was not going to fail. It was 3 weeks before I would know if it was salvageable. In that time, I let go of the outcome. I had peace that if all was lost, it would be okay.
Though it cost me financially, everything was able to be restored. The tech said it was a tricky one. Yet God saw my heart, and I know he restored it to me because I had given it to him.
I’ve also had jewelry stolen. A treasured bracelet I had bought on my first trip to Haiti was taken. The golden leaf ring that my mom gave me on my 13th birthday was stolen along with a necklace my husband had bought for me.
Things like this have been consistent in my life– tests and trials of earthly things I cling to fall away. Through it, I am learning. Learning to let go.
I think of Otto often. He was tested much the same as I have been, maybe it is a missionary thing, or perhaps we both have held too tightly to things. He worked with a tribe in Papua New Guinea. He went as a man who loved stuff. Over and over, the things he held onto got stolen, broken, lost. It took him a while to realize that God was asking Him to let go of his possessions.
When he finally surrendered them to God, the stealing stopped. When he loved stuff less, he was able to enjoy it more. He experienced this with his pineapple garden, his tools, his clothes, his silverware, his generator, and his motorcycle. Each loss brought him closer to forsaking the love of earthly treasures. Each test caused him to become more refined and sacrificial.
Eventually, his tribesmen came to him, “Wow you have changed. You aren’t mad anymore. You have become a Christian.” (You can find his stories here.)
Becoming a Christian
We say to become Christian is a single moment of decision to follow Christ. Though the tribal people did not understand Christianity at the time, they had a good observation. Becoming a Christian does start with a monumental decision, but becoming Christ-like happens one trial of letting go after another.
When those trials come. When what you hold most tightly gets taken, don’t cling to the things of this world that are passing away. Open your hands. Hold the thing most treasured with a loose grip… let go.
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.1 John 2:15-17
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.1 Timothy 6:17-19
Have we learned the buttercup’s lesson yet? Are our hands off the very blossom of our life? Are all things—even the treasures that He has sanctified—held loosely, ready to be parted with, without a struggle, when He asks for them?Lilias Trotter