Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sell Everything

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
- Mark 10:21

Difficult words.

This morning's sermon was based on this passage, and it reminded me of an old bucket list I had started in high school and happened upon the other day when cleaning my room. On that list, scribbled with my messy high school penmanship, was written, "live poor." Depending on whose standards you use, you could say I accomplished this when I was living in Rwanda: lacking clean water, electricity, food variety, and common accessories or luxuries. In fact, many people naturally compliment and even admire my work or any other volunteer's work based upon this reason alone. "It must have been difficult."

Today the two most provoking words in this verse, sell everything, took on a different spin for me. I did not sell everything. I sacrificed time, energy, even money for the poor, but the whole time that I was "living poor" I had another home awaiting my return, a room with a bed, a closet full of clothes, belongings gathering dust, a budget for travel and another for resettling back in America. In my attempts to live like the locals and understand life from their perspective, I soon realized that I would only be able to view from a distance. Even if they were my neighbors, even if I lived life with them day in and day out, I could never fully grasp what it was like not to have the money to pay for a bus fare or watch your kids go hungry, the fear of not having anything to fall back on, the emptiness of losing your family to war and genocide, the lack of opportunity to go to school or use your degree after you've earned it.

I wonder if this is why Jesus says to sell everything: not just because a rich man cannot serve two masters, but because he knows that as long as we have another option to fall back on, we aren't fully trusting him.
And as long as we aren't fully trusting him, we will never be able to fully understand and experience life. Perhaps this is Jesus' definition of "faith." Faith is not so much about belief, but more to do with trusting Him because we choose to abandon all other options in pursuit of Christ. Just as I could sell everything in order to truly understand what it means to "live poor", Christ calls us to abandon all other options to living our life and follow him in order to truly understand what it means to "live rich."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


As I recall, one of my first surprises when returning stateside was lint. Yep, those little fuzzy balls that get stuck in your belly button or the stringy remnant of socks that stick between your toes, lint was one of the first wake up calls that I was indeed back in America, the land of washing machines and tumble dryers.

As I have come to realize, my experience with lint is a fitting analogy for what people usually define as "reverse culture shock." It's the little things that you don't expect, and it isn't about the American culture itself as it is about the effects of our culture on our lifestyle. So, coming back to America isn't so much about culture shock to me as it is about lifestyle readjustment.

For example, hot showers, driving a car, using a washing machine, the attitudes of people, the way Americans think and interact with each other - these are aspects of our culture to which I adjusted rather quickly and soon accepted as normal because it is what I've grown up with. However, while taking a shower every morning feels completely normal, I am surprised and even appalled by how much perfectly clean water I use - and waste. As a conservative estimate, the amount of water I used to shower this morning (assuming 6 liters per minute for a very low flow showerhead) was about the equivalent of five day's worth of water for bathing, drinking, washing dishes, and cooking in Rwanda. Factor in the water pouring from our faucets, flushing our toilets, and flowing in our dish washers and washing machines and you'll have an idea of how big of an adjustment this is to me.

Another readjustment is how having a car at my disposal increases how sedentary I am. The most I need to walk anymore is from the house to the car and from the car to the store. Before, I was used to walking everywhere, even kilometers, to run an errand. It seems so crystal clear to me why Americans are overweight, why we are prone to more diseases, why we make exercise a sport. I'm recalling Back to the Future III right now, where Doc , in 1885, is laughed at for saying that people in the future "run for fun." At first I enjoyed the freedom of having a car again, but now I'm starting to feel the urge to walk or bike places. I just can't stand taking a car everywhere.

As the honeymoon phase of being back in America settles, I'm starting to see these differences and wrestle with the changes in lifestyle. I'll try to post more "lint" ideas as they come, and I would like to hear what you think of the differences and how we should respond to these differences, if at all.