Living in my comfortable, middle-class, American world, I regret to say that it is far too easy to get caught up in life and take for granted all the blessings that God has so graciously given me. I am in no way saying that I am not very grateful for all I have or that I don’t frequently make an effort to recognize my fortune and to thank God personally for his gifts, but living in a beautiful, strong house, attending a great university where I have received an above-average education, stuffing myself with enormous meals several times every day, and surrounding myself with a loving family and enjoying physical belongings to the excess make it difficult to remember just how much I overlook every day.
When I first thought about writing a blog post for today, my first intent was to write a post explaining exactly why “my life” makes me happy. I was going to write several paragraphs about my recent adventures spending time with friends, traveling through Europe for 15 full days, my family’s upcoming week long trip to Florida, my return to college and my 21st birthday that are a mere few days away. My life really has been extraordinary lately, and I am not going to say that I in any way do not still have a deep excitement for these things. It is simply that a few moments ago, I realized how lavish my lifestyle truly is and how much I have taken for granted, despite my best efforts to do just the opposite.
As I said, I returned from a 15 day trip to Europe only two days ago. The trip was incredible, and I experienced so much while there that I now have an urge to post about. These next few weeks, however, seemed to me to be rather hectic. To explain, let me give you a quick run-down of my present life.
August 13th- return from Europe
August 17th- Travel to Florida with my family for a week
August 25th- Return from Florida
August 26th- Move back to school
August 27th- First day of classed
August 29th- 21st birthday
Returning from Europe left me a mere 4 days to unpack 15 days worth of clothing and souvenirs, repack a weeks worth of clothing for the beach, pack a semester’s worth of clothing and necessities for school, get my class syllabi and assignments in order, and run countless errands that need to be done before I leave. It really is quite a bit to get accomplished in a short amount of time, and I was stressing over the upcoming loss of freedom and beginning of school work that I will soon face. I was flying around my house doing laundry, unpacking, cleaning, and pitying my small bank account when I saw something on my desk. It was a letter, presumably placed there by my mom when I was in Europe, from a little boy named Francis living in Kenya that my family sponsors. I will admit that it is an understatement to say that I have not been the best sponsor, as I have only written to Francis once in the last four years, and quickly forget about his little face soon after I am finished reading his frequent updates.
Nevertheless, I opened the little brochure and read what he had written. The brochure was a generic questionnaire for all the sponsored children to complete, with little fill-in-the-blank sections that said things like “My favorite school subject is ____” and “In my free time I like to ____” although all the answers little Francis had written were cute, one statement in particular stopped me in my tracks. There, toward the bottom of a page was a line that said “My most prized possession is_____” there, in a little scribble, Francis had confidently filled the blank with “my shirt.”
His shirt. If you had asked me what my favorite possession is, it would have taken me quite some time to decide, as I have so many to choose from. You can look around my room and see countless objects that I cherish, along with a large pile of possessions that I truly only have for my entertainment and nothing more. You could have opened my closet and seen two overflowing racks of clothing, or opened any of the nine dresser drawers I have in my room and pulled out one of hundreds of t-shirts. Although I love my clothes and make frequent shopping trips, none of these would have ever crossed my mind ad my most prized possession. Why? Because I take them for granted. I have never in my life had to worry about not having a shirt to wear. I have never been cold, unclothed, dirty, or impoverished. Clothes are expendable to me, something simply meant to portray my “style” or to impress others. I have many times pondered how poorly I obey Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” And how much I place value on insignificant, worldly possessions. Here I am, complaining about unpacking dozens of shirts and outfits, and eight year old Francis from Kenya feels such an overwhelming love and appreciation for one shirt, that he would go so far as to write a letter to me telling me just that.
I am currently reading a book entitled “Kisses from Katie,” a true story about an eighteen year old girl who forgoes college, moves to Uganda, and through God’s will, ends up adopting thirteen children in need. In one chapter of the book, Katie recalls growing up in America, where she was continually told how blessed she was. Although I can’t quote her exact words, the chapter goes on with Katie acknowledging that while she was given a comfortable life, she was beginning to see that the “blessings” of her American life were more of a curse than a blessing. She says that since she had grown up with so much, she struggled to attach herself to God instead of her possessions. Although she had always had a close relationship with the Lord and thanked him for all that she had, she was brought to tears one night in Uganda as she watched dirty, sick little children with no home, no parents, hardly any food, and no education laugh freely, focus on the positive, and above all, give continuous thanks and praise to the Lord who had “loved and provided for them.” She marvels at how these children, having no possessions, have learned what we “blessed” Americans have not: that when you have nothing, you have only the Lord. You learn, therefore, that the Lord is sufficient, all that you need, and the only thing that you need to be happy in life. Because these children had nothing else, they had a better, stronger relationship with God than Katie had ever dreamed of.
It is moments like these that humble me beyond words. While I stress over the hundreds of dollars I have in my bank account, or how stressful receiving an education is, there is a little boy in Kenya whose most prized possession in this world is his shirt. We can all learn a lot from that. God, thank you. Being humbled and seeing your true blessings makes me happy.