Two overwhelmingly vast thoughts have been lingering in my head for the past year or two. They have been convicting me, seemingly calling me out at the most peculiar times. I am pretty sure that God has strategically placed them in my head so that I might carry out His will, that which is good, pleasing, and perfect. And yet I have been reluctant, timid, and downright scared to go through or even commit to going through with either idea. They’re kind of big.
Rwanda (coupled with two books I’m reading) was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
The first idea stemmed from a conversation that occurred in Institute (something unique to K-Colorado, ask me about it sometime) but also has roots in a well-known Bible story. It’s the story of the rich young ruler. You know the tale? The one where the rich young ruler approaches Jesus and asks what he can do in order to obtain everlasting life. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments and the rich young ruler says that he has. He then wants to know what else he can do. To this, Jesus replies “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
All I remember from the conversation was Andy Braner (Director of K-Colorado) telling a story of a kamper who gave away all his clothes except some jeans and a couple t-shirts. That is all I remember. I do not even know if the miniscule detail that is still lodged in my mind is correct. The kid gave away his clothes. That stuck with me.
These two stories have caused me to question why more people who claim to be followers of Jesus and/or call themselves Christian do not actually follow His teachings literally. Lots of people give to the poor. Lots of people give 10% of their money to God. Lots of people want to be complete but are not willing to give themselves up to reach that goal.
Ever since hearing Andy’s story, I’ve thought to myself “Wow! That would be so cool to live like that. I would not be wrapped up in all my stuff. I would be able to feel God’s arms holding me tight. I would be able to focus all my attention on Him.” I’m sure my actual thoughts were much simpler than that. But the point is that I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings but was too scared that I might miss out on something.
The second lingering thought is also deeply rooted in the Bible. It comes from the passage where Jesus sends out the disciples.
He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of just walking somewhere, not anywhere in particular, with nothing and seeing what kind of predicaments God would put me in. Doesn’t that sound so awesome? I would not have to worry about being comfortable or even providing anything. I would be forced to rely on God for everything. How great would that be? Can you imagine the kind of relation you could have with your Father if you were in that situation?
Most of the time, when an American goes to a third-world country, he returns with a sense of gratefulness. He realizes how much he takes for granted everyday and he becomes thoroughly thankful for all the blessings he has been given by God. He understands how lucky he is to have running water, hot water, drinkable water, a huge house, a nice neighborhood, a good school, more than enough food, an iPod, a computer. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. It is good to be thankful for sure. But that was not the feeling I was given by Rwanda.
Most of the Rwandan people we encountered had very little in the way of worldly possessions and it did not matter in the slightest. That is just how they live. They have not learned to live without because they never lived with. Their lives are simple and their community is close-knit. They do not have to worry about impressing their neighbors or whether or not they look cool. They just live their lives with one another.
On the way back, I began to realize how meaningless all my so-called “blessings” really are. Whether or not I have enough food or an iPod has absolutely no bearing on whether or not I have an intimate relationship with my Father or the people he has surrounded me with. In fact, I think all my stuff actually hinders my relationships. Instead of having a real, intimate relationship with someone, I settle for a shallow one because it is easier (Facebook anyone?). I spend too much time worrying about how I look or what to eat or what would be easier or quicker. My stuff consumes my mind and gets in the way. I think, logically going along with what Jesus said, the more stuff you give away the more complete you become. Who does not want to be complete? Who is willing to give all their stuff away?
The two books I’m reading are very much relevant and pivotal to the formulation of my two ideas. The first The Places in Between by Rory Stewart is about his trek across Afghanistan. He set off by himself to cross the country, stopping in the villages and relying on the hospitality of the people he encountered. It is a remarkable account. The second book The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne is about “What if people took Jesus’ teachings seriously?” “What if we lived like the disciples of old?” Through his unconventional and very appealing life, he covers a vast array of topics and it might just be my favorite book ever. On the plane ride back someone gave it to me. It is especially relevant after visiting Rwanda. I wish I could do it justice in a description but I cannot. I would definitely recommend both books to anyone.
The actual ideas I’ve been talking about were formulated on the plane ride back and some forgotten time afterwards, respectively. the first is this. When my family moves houses, I will give up almost all my stuff. The main stuff being clothing but other stuff will definitely be tossed. I think I’ll keep one days worth of school clothes (khakis and collared shirt), a couple t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a pair of pants, the shoes/equipment needed for sports, and the necessary undergarments. Besides clothing I have no idea what will stay and what will go but I’m pretty sure most of it will go. The point is that I do not need all my stuff. It is just in the way of where I want to be.
The second idea is a bit more radical in my opinion. At some point in time, right now I’m thinking after I graduate (a little over a year), I want to go on a yearlong journey. I, along with three (tentative number) other followers of Jesus will head out on foot with nothing (maybe some stuff to document, maybe not) and we’ll just see what happens. We’ll stay with those who will house us. We’ll eat with those who will feed us. We will rely on God’s provision through other people at times and through supernatural miracles at others. We will literally be in His hands. We will be a walking testimony of the love offered by our Father. We will have no route other than however the Holy Spirit decides to guide us. How great would that be? What an adventure! It would be hard and uncomfortable but that is exactly the point. Following Jesus is the hardest and most rewarding occupation in the world.
These two thoughts have been consuming my mind since I arrived back from Rwanda. I am so glad that God is so good. He provides love and that is what it is all about. If you are at all interested in what I’m doing/thinking or more excitingly want to be a part of it please pray about it please tell me. This is so exciting. This is big.