After a rain my car is often covered by wet leaves. This provides me some entertainment on the way to work. While trying to keep my eyes on the road I watch to see how many of the leaves I can make blow off as I drive. This is not as easy as it sounds because the leaves are held to the car by a bit of water under them forming a kind of seal. As I drive many blow off but there are always a couple that seem to stick no matter what. When I have had to drive on the interstate I have been amazed at how long some leaves will stay despite the 70 mph winds. However, when I come back to my car at the end of the day I find that the leaves are gone, the water that provided the seal having evaporated. When the water is gone, the most stubborn leaf is blown off by the smallest breeze.
Lately I have been thinking how much I can be like that leaf. I have wondered how many times the wind of God’s Spirit has sought to take me somewhere but I have remained stuck, held back by something that inevitably will evaporate. How many times, despite the strongest urging of God’s Spirit have I resisted all and clung to that something which had no permanence, no chance of lasting? And, after holding so tightly to it at the end of the day it disappears. Why would I have battled so for that something that was destined to fail me?
A while back I became aware of something in my life like that. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a slave to fashion. Fifth Avenue holds nothing for me. My financial records will show that I have neither concerned myself with owning much of anything nor accumulating great sums of money. I realized long ago how fickle these things are. I thought I had escaped the clutches of materialism, that was, until yesterday.
My wife and I have felt that God was leading us to simplify our lives. It is our hope that doing this will allow us to give more of ourselves and our resources for the Kingdom. This was fine in theory but putting it into practice is always the challenge. It led me to look at my one source of possessions in abundance — my books. I cannot possibly convey the joy I have in just picking up a book, feeling it in my hands, of smelling it and slowly looking through it. My idea of Heaven is a huge library with book stacks that go beyond sight and knowing I have eternity to read all of them. You can keep the golden streets and harp; I’ll be enjoying the quiet of the reading room with a great book.
If I was sincere about this idea of simplifying, it wasn’t enough to suggest to my wife how she ought to do it. It was time to start going through the books. So, out of a collection of over 2,000 books, I found about 150 titles that I boxed up for disposal. These were books that I had either not read or used for at least ten years so it should have been easy. And it was until I took them to the book buyer and watched him go through them one-by-one. This took about an hour and a half and while waiting for him to get the money I was alone with the books. To some it may seem silly, but I have affection for these remembering the joy of buying them, the good time spent reading them and how nice they looked on my shelves. Turning my back on the books was painful. I felt like I was losing friends.
The fact remains that I never could have kept them forever. And once I felt the Spirit blowing I had a choice: to go with the wind of the Spirit or to be held back by something I couldn’t keep. Yesterday I chose the wind of the Spirit.
Materialism can take respectable forms but it is materialism just the same. I still have too many books, closer friends than the ones I lost. And because the Spirit of God unfolds to us our need as we are able to understand I will not only have to look at these books but other areas of my life as He directs. Always will be the question: Do I hold on to that which will evaporate or do I go with the wind of the Spirit?