“Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they?”
My four year old daughter Jocelyn is a hoarder. She walks around the house with purses and bags loaded with random toys and trinkets that she vehemently declares she cannot do without. It makes leaving the house a big ordeal, as she scurries around, collecting all her “stuff,” making us late because she “needs to have it all” for the car ride. I try to reason with her, but she’s four! Sometimes it’s just easier to give in and help her collect and carry it all, rather than argue with her and end up later than we will already be. It can be so frustrating!
But then I step into my pantry and realize that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Not only do I have two of everything, I have three – a back up to the back up. If there were any kind of national crisis, just come to my house. I can keep a small village fed, single handedly, for quite a while. Looking at my supply makes me happy; it makes me feel secure.
So when the local grocery store chain went on strike for six weeks over this past summer, I thought I would go into panic mode. I have been a loyal shopper there for years and know it so well, I can write my grocery list in the order of how the store is stocked. The cashiers and baggers know my daughter by name. I had to support them. I couldn’t cross the picket line. Although I had no choice but to give in and buy perishables from the super expensive grocery store down the street, I didn’t want to blow my kids’ college funds on the dry goods there (seriously, this store is that expensive!). So we ate our way through the pantry instead.
As my shelves got more and more bare, I kept waiting for anxiety to set in. But it never happened. I was surprisingly okay! I gained a new sense of self-satisfaction that I wasn’t the hoarder that I feared I was. Then, finally, after those six long weeks, the store chain reopened. I immediately restocked my pantry, and life returned to normal. Until that random day in October…
That day, for the first time ever, we were bringing the mommy-and-me program I run to the local retirement community to make it inter-generational. As I went back and forth from my car, unloading bucket after bucket of snacks and crafts and toys, the temperature and humidity kept rising. I hadn’t watched the weather report. I was dressed for an October day, not the 80 degree day, with extremely high humidity, that the day was turning out to be. I started to sweat and overheat. To further exacerbate things, the temperature in the retirement community was set to the mid-80’s, as the elderly’s blood runs thin. I was wilting fast.
In addition to the wacky health problems I have, I also have an immense sensitivity to heat and humidity. It is my kryptonite, my achilles heel, whatever term you relate to for my complete undoing. With every passing minute, I could feel the life being sucked out of me. By the time the program ended and I had repacked my car, I felt like I had the flu: I felt weak, nauseous, and extremely exhausted. Those of you who have had miserable first tri-mester pregnancies that kept you couch-bound can probably relate. All I wanted to do was go home, turn my A/C to high, and crawl into bed. But I had a very important meeting scheduled for just an hour later. It was a meeting with someone I greatly admire and had been wanting to meet for a while. Canceling it wasn’t an option.
I raced home, changed my clothes, had some lunch, and gulped down Gatoraide, trying to recharge. But the damage was done. I couldn’t get beyond the extreme weakness. It was then that it became evident that I couldn’t go to that meeting alone. I wasn’t capable of it. I had nothing left to get me there.
In the face of my weakness, I had to admit that I truly was a hoarder. I sow and reap and store away my strength, confidence, and self-reliance. I have always been able to burn the candle at both ends, jam a week’s worth of work into a day, and still have energy left over. That had become my identity, and I gave myself credit for it all, not God. Now here I was, at the dead opposite end of the spectrum, not able to even drive myself the three miles to the church for this meeting.
But I did have God, and I did have prayer. I had no choice but to rely on both. I was humbled and stripped of all self-reliance. I was just like the birds of the air, trusting that God would gift me with the strength I needed to get to that meeting, and get through it. When I got to the church, I had to double that trust when it was suggested we meet outside, as the other women wanted a change of scenery from the offices they work in every day.
Although I did have to go to bed at 6:30 p.m. that night, God not only gave me the strength to get through that meeting, He went above and beyond and gave me the strength to get through homework time with my kids, dinner prep, and dinner itself. It was pretty amazing to get to live Philippians 4:13: “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”
It is still hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I am no longer the self-sufficient person I used to be. That is a huge blow to my ego and my self-confidence. In fact, as a control freak, it shakes me to the core. But I know for sure that this is exactly where God wants me to be. It is the only place where I can learn to truly lean on Him, not on myself anymore. Stocking up on extra cereal and pasta is practical. But stocking up on self-sufficiency and my own ego is self-centered, not God-centered. It’s okay for my four year old to be a hoarder; it’s part of her developmental journey. But my journey now is to stop clutching on to my own abilities and strength so that my hands are wide open and ready to be filled by God’s.
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