I’ve touched on this previously in another article, but as my wife and I prepare for the empty nest chapter in our lives, this seems to be a theme that just continues to emerge as we proceed with the “purging” of our amassed accumulation of “stuff”. We’ve had two garage sales at this point. As I scoured through the exhaustive collection of items, I noted many that were clear distinct blessings and spotted others that were outright overindulgence's of excess where we allowed the pursuit of “things” to take charge. It showed me how everything that we own can have both good and negative attached to them – blessing and burden and what a difficult task it is to keep it all in balance. Recently my daughter offered me her car when she moved to New York City. It’s much newer and doesn't feast on near the abundance of petrol fuel as mine. The reasons for accepting her proposal and agreeing to bid farewell to my vehicle just made logical sense. I sold it a few days ago. I had driven this wonderful hunk of metal for almost fifteen years. It was such a great car! I loved it. I seriously struggled with admitting that it was time to get rid of “her”, my old faithful companion for so many years. The very day that I decided to place the “For Sale” sign on the window, the electric seat adjustment stopped working, leaving it permanently stuck until I was ready to forfeit the two hundred dollars required to re-establish mobility. A technician had also recently informed me that some major repairs would soon be on the horizon. The seat thing was just a confirmation that it was time to let her go. As the new owner steered her away, I was deeply struck with a stark sadness. It was like a piece of my history was being taken away as it vanished around the corner – numerous family vacations, remembrances of fun and enjoyment as we traveled to exciting destinations, my comfortable pal with the welcoming molded leather seat and amazing stereo system always reinforcing my contentedness on the daily trek to work. But it was time - time to appreciate the blessing that it had been and move on, not letting go of the wonderful memories, but ceasing to count the car itself as “mine”, as part of my “stuff”.
So, the purging continues. Our house of twenty one years is now also up for sale. With our eldest now living in New York City and the youngest on her way to university next month, we simply don’t need the extra space any longer. The home also at this point seems to be ruling us (the pool, the yard, sprinkler system, etc., along with every other item requiring continual attention for upkeep and maintenance), not to mention the expense!! Ughhh. . . . A big part of me is SO ready to scale back and gain the extra energy to expend on endeavors where fantastic new opportunities are presented. Yet, another portion of my rationale has me clinging to it as a cherished belonging and possession – debating with myself over the years of income and time invested in this “structure” that has been our haven and shelter for such a prized time of our lives.
I find myself at this present juncture where God seems to be earnestly attempting to show me how imperative it is to cut away all of the unnecessary – forging me, in a way, so I can become a better tool - an improved, further developed version that can be more useful for His purpose. This process of shaping and elimination of impurities has also brought me to the discernible realization that we have a job to do here. There really is a plan far above and completely outside the concept of obtaining the most comfortable and secure life possible. As followers of Christ, we essentially are in effect soldiers – warriors, combatting and contesting against the forces of evil as they attempt to keep us distracted with their potent, persuasive cleverness. Theirs being an all-out attempt to derail our success, preventing the accomplishment of our resolute objective.
I had an email conversation a few weeks ago with a new acquaintance – a true warrior. He’s a Viet Nam Veteran who now plays his music with a healing message of genuine hope to wounded soldiers in transition. It is obvious to me now that our exchange was God’s method of preparing and helping me to get my mind as well as my heart exactly in the right place as I continue to embrace these liberating alterations in my life, allowing myself to be modified and refashioned. My new comrade probably says it best when describing the “Warrior Mentality”.
“It was hot and muggy in the Viet Nam jungle. I carried 2-1/2 gallons of water, a case of c-rations, medicine, 2 claymores, 2 hand grenades, M60 machine gun, about 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a small pan to cook with when possible, and an ammo can that held personal items – toilet paper, writing paper and supplies, etc. How much does all that weigh? I don’t know but it was close to what I weighed.
Funny how we carried so much. It all seemed so important. I started looking at things like . . . a fork . . . God gave me fingers . . . and so the fork went. Toilet paper was great!! Do you know how much more weight is added when it gets wet? Eventually I was willing to learn other – better options. After a while you drop the extra stuff and you get right down to what is required. Emptied of want, filled with requirement.”
That’s the fiber and character of a warrior - one of self-control and necessity instead of self-indulging excess. Be assured, I’m not advocating some belief that compels everyone to sell their possessions and live a life with scarcity void of enjoyment. I’m just a person who is beginning to examine things through a different lens. This stage is without question a true defining moment for us personally – a pivotal turning point. Our productive, diligent parenting years will very soon be and already are behind us. Of course, we will always be parents, ready to offer help and guidance at any time. Their fostering now just won’t require as much hands-on attention. In the proactive parenting years our “stuff” – the house, pool, yard, spacious SUV and all the rest were elements that reinforced that segment of our lives. We’re now entering a new phase where those things have an even greater opportunity to become trappings and real hindrances as we move ahead.
So, like a dutiful soldier I’m evaluating everything that I have packed to verify whether it is really necessary for the mission. I know I have a new assignment. Although I’m not exactly sure about all the particulars of where I’m headed, I do want to contribute and help strengthen the likelihood of a profitable outcome. Whether it will be a sanctioned full-blown operation or useful training exercise in humility and obedience, I want to have a spirit that is readily adaptable so I can be perfectly prepared for the task.
About the Author: John Tracy Wilson is the author of the book "Of Life, Love and Family." You can find him on the web at www.johntracywilson.com