Sunday, April 19, 2009

Losing its Grip

This weekend I have felt something of a real victory in my life. I hesistate to say anything for fear that maybe it's just a victory in a battle, not in the war--the war on stuff.

The battle was staged in my bedroom closet. For years I have clung to stuff. Stuff that reminded me of a better time in life. Stuff that made me
remember certain people every time I looked at it. Stuff that made me feel smart or successful or, at least, above average. Stuff that I would make into something new, somehow, someday.

I have had many closet-cleanouts before. Dejunking marathons. 27-thing flings. Weight-loss contests where the weight was measured in pounds of stuff. But always before I have found myself holding back, reluctant to truly give up and let go of things I loved more than the space they occupied. I could never understand the root of my problem. And it wasn't for lack of seeking to understand; I had read seemingly every book on the topic of organizing and simplifying. My problem wasn't a lack of knowledge. I can organize. I can simplify. But the stuff kept me in bondage anyway. I didn't know what my real problem was.

Until this weekend.

God gave me a major revelation about my War Against Stuff. The real reason I hadn't conquered the sin of hoarding finally surfaced. The truth had do to with the timing of the Lord's providence.

Had you asked me if I believed God has always provided for me, I'd say, "Yes."
If you were to ask if I believe He always will provide for me , I would say, perfunctorily, "Of course."

So, then, what was the problem?

The problem, as it hit me like a wooden bat, was this: I didn't believe God would provide what I needed exactly when I needed it. He would procrastinate. He would withhold. Dangle the proverbial carrot in front of this donkey's nose with almost sinister pleasure. Therefore, to reassure myself, I would store whatever I could think of "just in case" (and the ugly reality of my heart said, "just in case God doesn't come through when you need something").

It hit me, not coincidentally, as I lay on the floor of my closet picking up small bits of trash before vacuuming. The last big item left after trash stood neatly wrapped by its own cord in the far corner under a winter coat. It was a full-length body massaging mat. Black, about feet 3 feet wide and 7 feet long, with a remote control for both massage and heat, it's something I rarely use now, but it was perfect when I needed it. My older sister sent it to me as a gift right after Joel was born when I was in intense pain on bedrest 24/7 for over a month. Having ruptured my pelvic ligaments in a freak delivery, I was severely limited in mobility, unable to take stairs or put my own pants on. "What do you really need?" she had inquired."It sounds like you've got all the baby stuff you could want."

I had cried and cried when she asked. "I want a backrub all the time," I said. "Even with Mama here every day to help, it's all Paul can do to care for a newborn, check the schoolwork, keep the house and laundry going, track my meds, get me changed and my hair washed, and hold down a job. Sarah is practically Joel's mother except for feeding him. Ben and Stephen feel awkward enough seeing me lay here helpless. I don't want to ask one more thing, but I am so sore all the time. I need a backrub every day, but I don't have the courage to ask."

I was merely pouring out my complaints to a caring sister; it didn't occur to me that a loving Father was also listening. Telling Rachel my feelings was cathartic, though I had no idea she could do anything about my need for a daily massage; she lived in Texas, I in Maryland. But a few days later something from her showed up in the mail. When I saw what it was, I sobbed and sobbed. (I was a daily bucket of tears.) God had heard my very specific need and used my sister to answer it. I had no idea this kind of device even existed. Not only would it massage where I needed it, it had a remote control. At a time when I had no control over anything, not even my paralyzed bladder, it was so liberating to be able to effect change by pushing a button.

So, this past Saturday, as I moved this marvelous massaging doohickey on the floor of my closet, God reminded me of His perfect timing. He had not been late back in February of 2002. He was just waiting for me to make my request known. He hadn't procrastinated, for that's a sin, and He cannot sin. He had not been withholding, dangling a carrot before my eyes with sinister pleasure; He was waiting for me to ask for it so that I could receive the pleasure of His answers.
I went shopping this afternoon because I had parted with so many ill-fitting clothes, 80% of which I never wear. My remaining lot gets worn so often I call it my school uniform. However, in the stores, as I looked at clothes (and pillows and purses and shoes and dishes and linens), I honestly did not feel compelled to have any of it. None. I wasn't feeling depressed. I didn't feel guilty for looking. I didn't sense that "I'll feel better if I buy something" or "This might not be here next time" or "This would look great in the family room." Rather, I kept thinking, "God, I feel so loved, so blessed, so cared for. I don't need anything today. I don't even want it. This is such a new feeling. Thank You!!!"

I don't say this with the stupidity of one who thinks she'll never covet again, never feel a "need" (really, a want with a worldly nickname), never feel glee when shopping again. No, I'm human. I'm a woman. I'm a homemaker. And I like to shop. I have lived long enough to battle materialism and discontentment over and over. But I can say this: I feel like the chains of mistrusting God for what I need WHEN I need it, have been broken. And that beats a massage (hands down) any day.


Leanne said...

Amen. A well timed reminder for me.

And thank you, Zo. God knew how much I needed that piece of encouragement right then. Thanks for being faithful to pray and to share with me.

Anonymous said...

Great testimony, Zoanna!

Kelly said...

That's awesome, Zo - thanks for sharing!
By the way, I knew I could count on you for some odd observation about Abi's sweet gift - you never let me down!

Laurie Lynn said...

Amen! Praise God for His work in your life and isn't it so interesting how He works His gracious majesty in closets as well as glorious mountain tops!

It seems that often God lovingly corrects our "wants" by magnifying our need, so the want is met by realizing the need! I'm not sure I expressed my thought, but there you have it!

(I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.)

Anonymous said...

Great job and great reminder! Our God never rejects us as we sometimes do to Him. Our needs are always taken care of ,long before we know what we need.

Amy said...

what a beautiful story. thanks for sharing that.