“Selling our house and becoming renters will allow us to respond quickly to wherever the Spirit calls us.” I said this while my wife and I were in the midst of actively giving away possessions.
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life
is being demanded of you. And the things you have
prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those
who store up treasures for themselves but are not
rich towards God.’ Luke 12: 20-21 NRSV
Seventeen months ago yesterday, my wife and I began our journey of Emptying Barns. Emptying Barns is the name we dubbed our conscious journey of simplifying and letting go of possessions. (The term refers to a parable told by Jesus in Luke 12.) I confess we’ve been on a bit of a lull since arriving in Portland on Labor Day. Having managed to fit all of our possessions into our then two cars, we’ve gotten rid of very few things since arriving here. (We did sell my beloved car but that had more to do with financial concerns than simplifying.)
I won’t reiterate all of the details of why we feel letting go of things is important. (If you want that detail, please read Emptying Barns at One-Year.) I will, however, say that this is primarily about removing the clutter that keeps us from God. It is about using our share of the planet’s resources and being faithful stewards. Emptying Barns is an attitude that says, God’s justice and God’s extravagant love is about relationships not things.
When I said, “Selling our house and becoming renters will allow us to respond quickly to wherever the Spirit calls us, I perceived that we might move to a different neighborhood in Portland when our lease expired. I certainly didn’t think God would send us packing – after only five months – to a small town sixty-five miles east in the Columbia River Gorge. I also was talking big when I said that; I had a romanticized view of my ministry-in-formation.
That’s the nature of responding faithfully, though, isn’t it? It’s rarely like we think it will be. God tends to continually challenge us to do more than we thought we could. God stretches our perceptions in surprising ways. For example, I’ve been quite self-satisfied that we moved from a three-bedroom home to a two-bedroom duplex, and then to a studio apartment. Yet, I’ve learned that the downside of a 250 square foot studio apartment is that it is very difficult to provide hospitality.
We will be moving into a one-bedroom apartment in the Hood River area this week. I confess I feel a little guilty. It’s a very nice apartment. Very nice! It doesn’t fit with my image of Emptying Barns but, I confess, I’m excited about the opportunity we will have to provide hospitality. I can imagine folks gathering in the our living room overlooking the Columbia River. I can imagine using this space for my ministry-in-formation.
Yes, Emptying Barns is about letting go of possessions but it is also about letting go of preconceptions. It is about being still, listening for the voice of the One, trusting and responding, and sometimes it is about having the physical space to be hospitable.
God of Surprises,
Your abundant love never ends,
as You challenge me to be truer to Your will.
Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out,
You show me my arrogance and,
turning it all around on me.
I feel so overwhelmed lately,
You beckon me to places that surprise me,
that require I trust in You.
Heighten my senses that I can feel,
Your loving embrace around me.
Open my heart and mind to You that,
I can see what I need to see,
trust You where I can’t yet see,
and still reflect Your love to others.
In the name of the rabbi who surprised the world,
by opening himself fully to You.