Several years ago, our family navigated through shifts requiring significant changes. We were preparing to move from our family home of 25 years. But it wasn’t just our family home. The house had also been home to my grandparents and my great-grandparents in years gone-by. We had to sort through decades of personal belongings, while filing all those generations of memories.
Through the process, I was impressed to go room by room and separate myself from all the “things.” Of course, we were taking a lot of those items with us to our new home – but I needed to discipline and remind myself that my life – happiness – allegiance – is not wrapped up in “stuff.” The joy of the Lord is my strength, and He brings increase while adding no sorrow to it. He provides all I need, and He desires my sincere worship. I shall have no other gods before me, except the Lord God, Almighty.
So, I went through each room, item by item, telling myself: “I can walk away from that.” “That doesn’t HAVE to go with me.” “I don’t need that.” Some things were easy to speak this over. Other things took days or weeks for me to fully accept that I could, indeed, walk away from them – like the scrapbooks I had creatively poured over to preserve such tender memories, the furniture pieces crafted by my Great Uncle Maitland, and more.
Then there were the “things” we could never take with us… the floorboard that always squeaked when Grandma rounded the hall corner; the dogwood Grandpa planted back on the hillside so Grandma could see it from the rear picture window; the front porch that entertained so many parade gatherings, the laughter the walls held… Those things – and more – are forever etched in my mind and will remain in my heart. But, I cannot afford to have even those things rule my heart.
Stuff, memories and relationships can never take precedence over the place we esteem God in our lives. If we seek joy and fulfillment from items, the items – or the pursuit of them – have become our god. If we refuse to go where God leads us because of memories or relationships – then we have allowed those memories and relationships to rule us.
It’s a harsh truth, but one Jesus communicated firmly. We see this in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 14:26-33:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
The beginning of this parable seems contradictory to the teachings of Jesus. What? I need to “hate” my relatives to come to Jesus? No. We are to love others as God loves us. The context actually means we are to love Jesus more than our relatives. We are to honor God more than our family. We are to follow His truth over the opinions of others. We are to seek to please God more than anyone else on the face of the earth.
And then there’s this statement that those who do not bear their own cross cannot follow Jesus, followed by the discussion of planning costs and assessing ability. The parable ends with Jesus saying we must renounce all in order to be His disciple.
In other words, we can selfishly live for ourselves, assess our provision and ability, and decide what we do, or don’t do, based on our singular desires and resources. Or, we can follow Christ. If we choose to be a disciple, we will endure suffering as we die to ourselves and live for others. As we bless others at the cost of abandoning our own desires, we are in effect picking up our own cross and following Jesus.
Is God first in our lives – above all other people? Are we able to renounce our own endeavors at all costs to follow Jesus? If God instructed us to go and serve in such a way that required us to leave behind everything and everyone we know and love, would we willingly obey?
I know our move a few years back wasn’t a sacrifice for us. It was a tremendous blessing! But in the process of breaking down those 25+ years of memories, the move was a huge lesson for me. God taught me to break the hold “things” may have had on me; revealed to me idols I had unknowingly established in my heart; and taught me how to strip down my pursuits to keep God first.
This isn’t something we only do every 25 years, or just when a change is presented in our lives. Paul shared that he died daily to his desires to live for Christ; he exhorted those who belong to Christ Jesus to crucify their flesh and their desires; and he declared that those who die to their flesh will be led by the Spirit of God.
We challenge you to search your heart and ask this tough question: Can I renounce everything and follow Jesus? If the answer is no, identify the things or people or desires or memories you can’t leave behind – not even for God; and then ask God to teach you how to trust Him enough to willingly be His disciple.
Holding Fast to Hope,