These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town” (Mark 6:8-10).
I’ve read this passage a number of times over the decades since giving my life to Christ. Each time, I envision His disciples with some trepidation in their eyes, the vastness of the Judean countryside and harsh conditions surrounding it (especially on foot), the “lack” of necessary provisions (since I’m a huge planner type) and the thought, “What if I’m asked to do that?”
Not to think even for a moment I have had to withstand any aspect of those difficult conditions or been as faithful as His disciples were to do so; however over the past year when asked “Where are you living these days?” my response has been “I am basically homeless.”
By “homeless” I mean I don’t have a “permanent residence,” as can be attested by my three Post Office boxes across the country. I understand, to the spiritual police, there is no such thing as a “permanent residence” until eternity, but for all intents and purposes, I have not had a specific personal “home” to go to each evening, thus no “earthly” permanence.
I’m not in any way seeking pity or handouts of any sort since this has been, for the most part, by my choice, and from what I see to be God’s leading.
I have been traveling on “tour” with a number of different artists for the majority of the last eighteen months, and have been “residing” on tour buses, in hotels, on red-eye flights, and in the homes of family and friends.
I was not without bread, bag or money (or even an extra tunic); nevertheless, in some small way I have been able to learn a few lessons from my temporary situation and experience what I believe Jesus was trying to teach me.
Primarily since I enter this holiday season with the heaviness of the recent loss of my brother, I have gained a fresh new perspective of what’s important in life and in eternity.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).
As I begin the difficult road of going through and cleaning out a loved one’s possessions, I am prompted to consider what of my things are just "treasures on earth," discover what has already been destroyed "by moth and rust," and what items are actually necessary in the bigger scheme of life.
One of the most refreshing revelations I made during my “homelessness” is the logistical realization that I couldn’t buy (or collect) anything since I didn’t have anywhere to put it. As a result I didn’t just go to stores to see what I could “find” and had to clearly determine the difference between what was really necessary and those things I just wanted.
It reminds me of when I purchased a home several years ago and had friends come over to visit. They noticed something out of the ordinary for a house in our society - empty space. I actually had rooms with minimal to no furnishings and a couple of closets without anything in it. At the time, I almost felt a “need” to accessorize and try to fill those spaces.
I don’t have anything against finely decorated homes or the people who are able to do it, in fact I truly appreciate it coming from a design background, however in this season of giving, what a great opportunity for all of us to ask ourselves what are our “treasures on earth” and how may I utilize a portion of what I have been blessed with to help others.
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered (Luke 22:35).
One line spoken by my oldest nephew in his father’s recent eulogy continues to resonate in my mind, “He sacrificed earthly wealth in order to build relationships which will last an eternity.”
"Love your neighbors as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).
What I have seen in the outpouring of love, service and prayer to my brother’s family over the past couple of months is a tribute to the investment of time and attention he gave to others, and the relationships he built over the years.
When I first read Jesus’ instructions to his disciples, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town,” I never thought I would be the one who would need to follow it someday. However, over the past year, I have had to rely on several friends whom I have had long-standing relationships with to accommodate me for periods of time.
I was surprised to find how my relationship with each of them and their families deepened even more than I could have ever imagined or dreamed of. Even though our friendships were close prior to my stays, they will forever be considered family to me now. For what they shared was not just a room, a place to stay or a number of delicious meals, but rather their heart, time and love.
Since being directly affected by the frailty of life and having the opportunity to distance myself from the “stuff” in my life (and from wanting more at least for a season), I have learned to appreciate so many more of the intangibles in our world.
I have discovered gratefulness in the midst of hardship whether self-inflicted or just a part of life.
I have seen where God’s instructions of the past can have current implications today.
I have experienced the true graciousness of others through provisions and love.
I have learned to accumulate less, love others more and appreciate everything.
This season, don’t let “stuff” interfere with the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family, and continue to build those relationships which will last an eternity.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to email@example.com. Find him on facebook and twitter.
Publication date: December 17, 2013