Sunday found us at church. In December, our church home highlights some of the “Hear the Cry” ministries we support, and talks about the gift catalog (gifts for foster kids, buying livestock for villages in poverty, etc). Specifically, the church highlighted some children in Uganda that “aren’t just numbers.” Then we had a guest pastor speak from a local church about fatherlessness and God as our amazing father.
It was yet another service where I felt both personally convicted to act on God’s pull and tug at my own decisions and my own heart. I also felt filled and encouraged for the week.
Afterwards, I went to pick up the youngest.
First, I stood in the wrong line and waited for him (the oldest son’s line, but he already left with Dad…habit!). Oops. Then, I redirected and found him in the correct room.
He walked out with a big, shiny, new nerf play gun. A shiny new toy.
This is where I … well … the scene was less than pretty. Similar to scenes I may have witnessed between an angry parent and child in a grocery store parking lot….
“Um, you are donating that, right?”
“No, it’s mine! (excited, proud and happy!) “I used my tickets.”
“Oh, buddy…you can’t keep that. We need to give that away. We have Christmas AND your birthday is two weeks after!”
Insert slight explanation: Husband and I had been cleaning the day prior. In fact, we cleaned, dropped off at goodwill, consignment, traded games in, traded books in and generally were preparing for Christmas STUFF! I was already feeling this deep growl of sickness inside from all of our STUFF. I was already desiring simplification. I felt like a worn down product of overconsumption. And then we cleared some, got rid of some. And then we went Christmas shopping. We got a couple of gifts and talked of what the grandparents were gifting, and the “UGH!” and the claustrophobic feeling of hoarding “STUFF” was just feeling like it was making its way right back in. A hostile takeover of STUFF about to hit our home!
And then the children in Uganda, and the talk of foster kids, and the fatherlessness, and the gift of Jesus in humble beginnings….
I kinda lost it.
So, we walked to the book table, and youngest….sweet, sweet youngest boy was proudly holding the new gun in one hand and a bag of Christmas jelly beans he had received in the other hand. I walked to the book table to buy the book on fatherlessness, and a worship album. Mommy needed to write a check. I needed a pen. The pen dropped on the ground right at the feet of my youngest…..and baby boy kicked it towards me. His hands were too full of STUFF to bend and help.
Oh boy! Watch out…here comes the object lesson!
“Your hands are too full of STUFF to help me out!!!””
or something like that….
And then the explanation in the car….the “I am trying to explain to you why I am so frustrated!”
“Honey, you don’t need that…it just doesn’t feel right to Mommy to walk OUT of church with something….I just feel like we should be walking IN to church donating something….”
…and “You see, this is what happens…we people get so bogged down with STUFF that we have to organize STUFF, clean STUFF, pick out the STUFF. We just get so busy, we don’t have the HANDS, or the time to help out others. We are too busy with our STUFF!!”
Oh, I was mad. I showed anger. Ugh.
Oldest has heard this. She understands a bit. She has 4 years on him and she has donated her toy she had received at church before. She starts chiming in…supporting these concepts…at least in theory.
Oh my youngest son tries! He suggests, “How about when we get something new, we give something away?!”
I see good in it…but the lesson isn’t over yet. I retort, “Well, honey, you see…God wants us to give the stuff we DO want…He wants us to give where it hurts, where it is a bit of a sacrifice. And He promises that He will bless us…with 100 times the blessing. But does that mean He will give us 100 guns when we give one??”
“No.” There are tears.
“You are right, but He might bless us with 100 times the joy that we had in getting that gift, when we see the look on the face of someone who doesn’t have any, and that kid is ecstatic to have that one thing!”
“And God wants us to give the things that do matter…things that actually kinda hurt to give away…”
Hearts are softening, including mine.
And this is where grace needs to step in.
You see, I am right on. I am surely right on when I look at myself in the mirror, too! I, too, have so much STUFF. I buy STUFF and gift STUFF and I actually covet STUFF. Oh, STUFF has it’s grip on me…I am learning from my own object lesson.
But I am DECADES ahead of this sweet boy.
And I yelled. And I got mad. And there are tears. UGH UGH UGH.
So…we come to a point of understanding.
“We will earn things for others at church from now on. You can keep this gun. It’s yours. I won’t guilt you. You earned it and you didn’t know. Its okay. And I am sorry for yelling. I was just frustrated with feeling like we should walk in with stuff to give, not walk out of church with stuff”
Oh, how I learned a lesson for myself! I think God is talking to me, too!
Little man…he is good and he is okay. He is a happy kid.
He still doesn’t know what to do with his gun. We are now a few days later.
I keep telling him, it’s his to do what he wants with. He is pulled between his head and his heart. We have been praying. He brings it up…sweet baby boy. He doesn’t know what to do. But he won’t forget this story. Whether he keeps the toy gun, or gives it away. He won’t forget. Youngest is pondering and thinking on what he should do. I pray he has deep joy. I pray he learns to give the tough things at an earlier age so it might be easier when he is older. God has his back. I’m not worried!
So we shall see. We will keep praying about it.
And I will now pray over and consider what to do with my stuff issue with STUFF. God has a hold of my heart.
Thank you, Lord, for continuing to work on MY heart.
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12v15
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6v19-21