Weeding Out the Mines
Good morning from Managua, Nicaragua!
I have learned many things in Nicaragua, but maybe more than anything else, I have learned the importance of living with open hands. In other words, living in such a way that you are ready to give whatever is asked of you, whether it is money, time, a possession or your life. It is easy to talk about this way of life conceptually, but how does a person live it out? To be honest, I would have to say I am not completely sure. I am, however, learning every day and, in practicing what I am being taught, will freely share a few thoughts with you today. So, how do we plant seeds of generosity in our lives?
I find it interesting that, as humans, one of the first words we perfect is the word “mine”. Based on observation, and a little reading, this typically happens around two years of age and is born out of an initial understanding of ownership. At two years old, this gets a funny nickname like “terrible twos” and it is assumed that the child will eventually grow out of it. The reality, however, may be a little different. I often wonder if the truth is that we don’t so much as grow out of it, but instead just get better at masking it. To say it another way, we learn more socially acceptable ways of saying “mine”.
While it would be easy to say that this is just human nature and there is not much we can do about it, I don’t believe that is completely true and I don’t think we realize what we are giving up when we resign ourselves to this way of living. In Mark’s recordings of Jesus’ life, we can read a story about a young rich man who is truly interested in finding real life and believes Jesus is the person who can help him find it. There is no way to know exactly why he it was so motivated to ask this question, but if I had to guess, I would say it was because he had not found life in the things he already had and was giving his life to. In reading the text, we find out that he more than likely has everything he could ever want from a possessions standpoint, but that he still felt that something was missing. We even see that he had taken steps in his life to do things that others told him would bring him the life he was seeking, but that he still didn’t have the fulfillment he desired. This is not a unique story. I don’t think it would take any of us long to think of a story of someone we know or have heard about that has a similar story. In fact, this might just be our own story. I know that has been true of me at times in my life. If we skip down a few paragraphs in the story, we can read Jesus’ answer to his question and the young rich man’s response. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said, ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:21-22, NIV 1984) Jesus tells him he doesn’t need his “stuff”, but the guy couldn’t seem to let go. I think it is interesting that it says “he went away sad” instead of “he went away thinking, ‘that’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard'”. To me, that says that he believed Jesus was probably right, but that his stuff was too important and his grip was too tight to give it a try. In a sense, it is as if his stuff owned him more so than he owned his stuff.
Does this mean that the way to live life with open hands is to give everything you have to those who are less fortunate and become poor yourself? Maybe, but probably not. While I do believe God calls some people to sell everything they have and follow him to some far off land, I don’t think he says that to everyone. With that said I do believe it means a willingness to give away whatever you might be asked to and to recognize that all of our stuff is owned by God and, in and of itself, is not life-giving. This starts with our lives. To truly live with open hands, we have to be willing to give our lives to God, the only one who can actually give us real life.
Practically speaking, I believe we can plant the seeds of an open-handed life every day. It starts with a decision. We need to intentionally think about something we can begin to give away today, whether it is time, money, possessions, or expertise. In my experience it is best to start out small as it gives you a much better chance of following through. Once you begin to do this, I believe you will start to feel the innate joy that comes from a willingness to give away something with which you have been blessed. I have found that this builds on itself if we make a commitment to continue doing it. At some point we find the freedom that comes from not be owned by our stuff and living with open hands. In taking one step in this direction by moving to Nicaragua, I have learned that there is no other way to really live. There is real life found in being willing to stop saying mine. Will today be the day?
– James Belt