Thoughts on what consumes us
Do you remember playing with a Pro-Yo? It was the fad that had all the cool kids wanting to own one in the 1990s, keeping them working hard to perfect a multitude of yoyo tricks. Back in the day when there were only two MRT train lines, I remember throwing a huge tantrum and wailed inconsolably for 26 stops (from Tampines to Woodlands) because my brother had refused to let me play with his Pro-Yo. In the end, my parents relented and bought me one, so that we would no longer fight over it.
When I first owned a Pro-Yo of my own, I was unable to wipe the grin and sheer delight off my face. I took great care of my new toy for fear that I might lose it if I was not careful. As a result, I developed a lifestyle of holding onto what I had with great pride. I keep each and every item in tip-top condition so I need not deal with loss or go through the hassle of getting the item replaced.
Little did I know, this marked the beginning of an unhealthy attachment to material things. It might have begun with good intentions of stewarding what I owned, but 16 years later, I still find myself grappling to shake this intense grip loose.
Recently, I was put to the test when my iPhone 4S tragically “committed suicide.” It didn’t drown or fall from a great height, but simply lost power and could not reboot again. I went two-and-a-half days without a phone, severing all vital communication channels that I relied on.
On Day One, I enjoyed “the unplugged life” and remained hopeful that my phone would revive. But after 29-hours of charging, it still showed no vital signs — my heart lost hope and struggled with a deep sense of sadness. By Day Two, the fear of missing out crept in and I somehow felt a sense of aimlessness.
I eventually realised that I wasn’t only despondent because I had lost something integral to my daily life, but that I had yet to find compelling answers to this question: How can Christians be good stewards of the possessions God entrusts to us, yet avoid being unhealthily attached to them?
It was through my wandering and questioning that God began doing a significant work in my heart, altering the way I lived my life and my perspective on what matters. This work, however, was not convenient or painless. It was a journey which required stepping out of my comfort zone into discomfort.
In November last year, God asked me a startling question, “Nat, would you be able to stop buying clothes for one full year?” Asking this of women would likely trigger a negative response that goes: “That’s crazy! How do you expect me to do that?” I was hesitant and lacked confidence that I would be able to complete this fast successfully even if I said yes to Him.
I struggled for two months, and on 11 January 2016, I finally gave God my commitment to go a whole year without buying new clothes. Yet, the temptations have been real. My eyes would dart towards glaring window displays and plastic mannequins, catching glimpses of clothes I would like on me.
This was made worse because of my sentimental nature — I kept anything and everything I deemed to be of value. I had a heavy resistance against discarding things, which meant that many items spilled out of the cupboards and shelves in my room, and there was barely any floor space to tread upon.
I was a hoarder. Little did I know, the clutter in my room was a reflection of my cluttered heart. I didn’t need a lot — I just wanted a lot.
As I made a conscious decision to purge my wardrobe and let go of the unnecessary material things I held on to, it felt as if my heart could emerge from the suffocating deep waters and breathe again.
Today, I can barely even remember what I had thrown out! I have come face-to-face with the reality that material things will fade away and helplessly disintegrate into nothing; I have also resolved that my soul is not going to melt into nothingness with these items.
Isn’t this a constant struggle for many, if not all, of us? Eight months into my shopping fast, I can confidently say that my appetite for worldly things has been replaced with a single-minded focus on God. As I laid down the wants in my life, I found space in my heart to focus on needing Christ more.
Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) says, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Knowing full well that earth is not the final destination, we must learn to detach, do without, and live without our material possessions. After all, what are these material things compared to gaining knowledge and revelation of Christ?
This is clearly reflected in Mark 10:24-25 (NKJV) where Jesus said, “…Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” If I focused on attaining more “stuff” and nursing my material possessions back to health instead of nurturing my heart to understand that I was not made for this world and all of its possessions, I am missing the point of this life.
Are you unable to love Christ to your fullest because material possessions stand tall in your way? If it is so, would you lay it down or let it go in order to gain Christ?
If you have never embarked on a fast from the things you are consumed with, I encourage you to take a step of faith. Allow God to show you one area in your life that needs to be laid to rest. I am confident that God’s grace and providence will not fail you.
Let us hold the things of this world loosely, so as to take hold of the eternal things! My prayer is that each of us would esteem Christ greater than every earthly possession and count Him more worthy and glorious than wealth and riches. He is the only one who satisfies.