These Things

Today I am staying at one of my favorite vacations spots – The Wigwam in Litchfield, Arizona. The fragrant flowers, the rich green grass, and the inviting pools make this place a true oasis in the desert. I came here a couple of years ago to write a big portion of my book You Can Homeschool and twice now as a birthday getaway. I don’t splurge often, but this place – designed for those of the upper class of which I am not – is one of those rare places and moments that I’ve allowed myself to soak up the sun under palm trees while sipping on a Pina Colada and getting alone time to think, read, and write. My children were here for a portion of the day today climbing up and sliding down waterslides and floating under a bridge enjoying themselves and exclaiming how amazing and beautiful this place is. However, what they didn’t notice was the decaying wooden stairs peeking their way through the moldy concrete, nor the parts under the bridge that were rotting away. They didn’t frown at the rickety rails on the balcony, or notice the chipped paint in the bath tub, or the strings coming loose on the carpeted floor. From my children’s perspective, this place is perfect and will always be perfect. I remember thinking that way when I was a child.

As a kid, we grew up visiting Mackinac Island every year -a tradition I have carried on with my own family. I don’t ever remember noticing things that needed fixing or updating. All I could see and feel was the magic of stepping back in time to an unhindered, enchanted garden island of horse-drawn carriages, and clear, sparkling green water splashing up against the docks and onto the stony shore. But as an adult, I now notice all the places that lack a good maintenance job. Even my very favorite place on the earth – Mackinac Island is deteriorating.

It makes me sad and nostalgic, but the reality is, nothing in this world lasts forever. Every plant, every building (even ones built for the elite), every city, every person (even the Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullocks out there who never seem to age) will decay and pass away. Nothing in this world will last forever. Nothing. Not even the world itself. And yet…

People – including me – keep laughing and sipping their margaritas – or pina coladas – as though we are immortal or immune to the inevitable decay and frailty of this life.

This life of mine has been so wrapped up in the things of this declining world. My thoughts have been ever fixated on things that just don’t really matter in light of eternity.
Could we ever afford to move again with these crazy interest rates?
Should we farm or not farm?

How should we invest our money?
How can I get in shape and stick to a diet plan?
How can I get myself to look younger?
When can I ever get time to recharge?

Will the baby ever sleep through the night?
Where am I going to put her now that she’s bigger and needs space to crawl around and cry it out at night?
Are my kids getting a good enough education?
How can I protect them and let them go?

Doesn’t God see my needs?

“These things” have been consuming my life.

The past two weeks, the pastors at Salt Church (the church we attend when we’re in Arizona) have delivered very timely messages for me from Matthew 6:19-34 which reads,

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

2“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. 23 But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Or as the NIV says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well.”)

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (NLT)

I have read this passage multiple times but something the pastor said last week struck me deeply. “These things,” referring to the worries of this world such as food, clothing, shelter, and all the things I worry about are important things. And God cares about all those things. In fact He says to cast all our cares on Him because He DOES care. However, it takes a giant leap of faith to exchange “these things” for things that last forever – things of the kingdom of God. Things like putting God FIRST daily in whatever way I connect with God – being in the outdoors, dancing or singing to Him, reading the Bible, being in solitude to just listen, listing to a convicting message, spending time with other believers, encouraging a friend, praying for and loving the unbeliever, making disciples, caring for the orphans and widows, doing mundane tasks without complaining, or sacrificing time, talents, and treasures for the things that matter to God and build up His kingdom.

For years now, the decaying things of this world have robbed me of the true meaning and purpose for my life. Those things are not meant to dominate my thoughts as though God doesn’t exist or care about me. There’s a promise that if by letting go and redirecting my focus back on God, He will take care of all those things as well. I’ve just had everything backwards. It’s not like I haven’t connected with God or totally neglected the things of His kingdom. It’s just that my anxieties and worries have come FIRST. They have consumed my mind. It’s the mentality that when I take care of all “these things” then I will make time for God. But that perfect time never seems to come. I’ve been too worried that if I let go of my worries and put GOD first, then my life will fall apart and those things won’t get done, or accomplished, or fixed, or maintained, or figured out, or… whatever, and like the pastor at Salt Church said, God has so much more power to take care of “these things” than I do, if I would just seek Him first.

Perhaps by embracing a more child-like perspective of the world I could let go of finding everything around me that’s decaying and needs fixing and instead enjoy the pools, the fragrant flowers, the rich green grass, or the beauty and pleasures of the life around me by resting in God and letting Him worry about “these things.”

I’m not the maintenance person here at The Wigwam. I can’t fix the decaying stairs that go up to the waterslide. I can’t repaint the bathtub or fix the rickety railing on our balcony. Certainly worrying about them won’t do a thing. But I can (and I did) bring them the attention of the person who can fix those things.

So maybe that’s exactly what I need to do with all my worldly worries. I can’t change them, but I can bring them to the attention of the One who can.

And does it really matter in light of eternity if I look younger or more fit right now? So much of what I worry about are things that will one day decay or pass away.

As C.T. Studd said, “Only one life ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

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