Paul Olsen

on the way…not there yet

On Giving

I’m a terrible packer.
I never know for sure what I should bring,
so I bring everything I can think of
and generally way more than I need.
I come home with clean socks and underwear
in suitcases that scrape by just under the 50-pound limit.

Which is why interim ministry has been good for me.
In the last ten years,
this work has never taken me less than 500 miles from home.
I can squeeze a lot of stuff into Mazda sedan,
but it has its limits.
I’m always missing something:
a big enough pot,
a warmer blanket,
something I should have brought more of,
like socks and underwear.

I live in rented space with borrowed stuff
you found in your closets and garages
and didn’t need anymore
(I depend on the kindness of strangers).
I’ve often made do with the bare minimum.

I’m finding that enough
is just that:  enough.

In fact, when I make the occasional trip back home,
and discover chores undone and repairs needed
and all the demands of homeownership and lots of stuff,
I start looking forward to getting back to a simpler interim lifestyle.
And invariably when an interim ends and I get back home
I start to sort out the things I don’t need from the things I’ve collected
and give it away.

Which means,
I’m very lucky and very rich by the world’s standards
to have enough and more than I need,
to be able to make the choice
of living simply,
of letting go.

Why do all the great religions
and Christianity most especially
laud poverty as a virtue
and letting go of stuff as a spiritual discipline?

They universally think that less is more,
and giving away can’t be overdone.
And Jesus more than anyone
spoke directly to the lucky and the rich
about what a burden they bore
and how much they could do
to relieve the burdens of others.

And what a joy it is to do so.
Just consider this, from Jesus:

Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,
will be put into your lap;
for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.  (Luke 6:37-38)

Letting go.
It is an act of trust
that there is, there will be,
enough,
enough to share.
Indeed,
that somehow,
there will be more when it is shared.

So I keep unpacking,
letting go a little bit more,
praying
to not be bound by things,
not consumed by being a consumer;
to discover that less is more,
and enough is enough;
to travel lightly through this world,
fifty pounds lighter on the way home;
to understand how lucky I am,
my measure pressed down, shaken together, running over,
and all so I may be generous in return;
to learn that a burden really is a burden,
and a gift given really is a joy.

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