Three years ago, when the economy tanked, a husband and wife both lost their jobs. The man in his early 60’s, the wife in her late 50’s, both came home empty handed. The company that she had given years of hard work to laid off all their employees and closed their doors. The nationwide hiring freeze put his recruiting firm out of business. So this hard-working, middle-class couple found themselves with no jobs, and no benefits for their chronic health problems. He was cutting blood-pressure medication in half to make it last longer. She was skipping days of her thyroid medication to stretch it out. They were scrambling to put money together for non-negotiable insulin, and he stopped taking his cholesterol medication because they just couldn’t afford it.
So this couple, in the prime of their lives, found themselves starting over. But they were clever and creative, so they put their heads together and started a small business, making and selling tie-dye clothing and his beautiful artwork. They worked tirelessly throughout the week to get their inventory up, and then traveled every weekend, chasing after arts and crafts fairs to peddle their goods. There was no Sabbath for this couple, but they were growing weary.
They filed for every government benefit available to them at their age, fought against red tape and middlemen, and even still, were just scraping by. Even through all of their toil, though, they were falling further and further behind. So after three years of just trying to keep their heads above water, they made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy and let their house, their home of 13 years, go to the bank. They had run out of options and energy. They would move to a different state, and share a home with their aging in-laws who were in need of live-in help. Humbled and torn, they began the process of selling off all that they had left.
In late September, my family and I returned to the states from Africa, just in time to help that couple, my parents, neatly arrange all of their possessions on tables in the carport of their home, with paper signs that read “25 cents each.” Family heirlooms, memorabilia from around the world, gifts from family and friends; each item had a story, and piece of our past attached to it. And a person walks up, bargains it down from a dollar and walks away with it in hand, never knowing where it came from, the stories that made us laugh when we talk about it, or the family that we remember when we see it. All of it gone for a couple thousand dollars in two weekends’ worth of yard sales. And then my parents loaded up what was most dear in a small truck, and headed east for Texas, 15 hours away from children and grandchildren, trusting God for guidance and peace.
And I mourn it all.
Probably more for selfish reasons than anything else. And I know it is only a season. But I mourn it nonetheless. To know how hard they have worked throughout their lives, how they have struggled and toiled, I just wonder if we could have, should have, stood together better. The community failed. We failed.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the rich young ruler who approached Jesus, and the early Church community described in Acts, and the modern day Church, and my parents, and countless others just like them, and the lost and broken, and the call to be set apart, be a light, give everything, no poor among them, thousands added daily, addictions and pain, and the power of the Holy Spirit to change it all. And this stirring and this reading and this praying and seeking has left me with a solemn conclusion.
I cannot fully reconcile my life to what Jesus taught because I have spent my life picking and choosing what of it I want to follow. It's just easier that way.
Ugh. I hate putting that out there because it solidifies, confesses, acknowledges the nudging that the Spirit has been doing at my heart.
Yes, I hear you. I just didn’t want to hear you. Because the cost of discipleship so very high, and I. AM. SCARED.
But You, in all of Your unpredictable moves and unreasonable requests, You are good. You do not make sense, as Your ways are not my ways, and You are not safe by the standards I know. But You are good.
And so when You told the rich young ruler, this master who owned everything he could possible need, that he lacked one thing, You didn’t mean that just for him. And Your early church, full of the Holy Spirit, with Your words still ringing in their ears, they knew that. You told him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” There was no payment plan, no easing into it, no baby steps. This rich man, this religious leader, knew all the commands and boasted in keeping them, even approached Jesus in boldness to let Him know that all the commands had been kept. So now the next act of obedience, the next step in discipleship.
GIVE. IT. ALL. AWAY.
And Your bride, in the zeal of her youth, did just that.