Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Cleaned Out My Closet... Africa, Part 5

This is one of those posts that I've wrestled with whether or not to post it...  Not because I'm worried about what you'll think...  But because the Bible tells us to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to keep our giving in secret.  And yet, I really think I'm supposed to tell this story because of what God has been teaching me from it...

On our last day in the community, we handed out shoes and clothes to the children at the church.  They waited so patiently as they came up one by one and their Sunday School teacher, I'll call her MJ, helped us to know what their greatest need was...  shirt, pants, shoes or a jacket...

At one point, one of our team members came up to me and pointed to a young teenage girl, holding a baby on her hip...  She had on a pair of ragged flip flops and MJ said she needed shoes.  But the problem was that her feet were rather large and we had mostly children's shoes and smaller adult sizes, so not one pair that would fit her. 

As I stood there and looked at those worn feet, she said not to worry, just to give something to the baby...  But then I knew...  her feet looked just like my daughter's feet and we wear the same size...  So I asked MJ to ask her if she would like to have my shoes...  I left that day with my socks and a joy in my heart that is beyond anything I can describe, not because I did anything special, but because God allowed me the indescribable privilege of putting shoes on a child in need.

As I've thought about that young woman over and over, my heart has longed to live a life where that kind of giving is possible on a regular basis...  God has blessed us with SO much and yet so much of it is wasted on frivolous indulgences...  Things I just don't need...

A few weeks ago, our pastor was preaching a series on Living the Good Life and he talked about the joy of giving... He also talked about what a burden our stuff can become, how it weighs us down in life and I decided then, it was time to start clearing some things out...

So yesterday I faced down my closet and decided to lighten the burden of stuff in my life...  As the hangers piled up around me...  As the bags of clothes to give away grew in number...  As I looked up from where I was sitting and still saw far too many clothes in my closet, I thought of the people of Swaziland who have so little and my heart broke...  I have never been so sorry about my selfish indulgences...  I have never been so remorseful over my frivolous spending...  In that moment, it was so clear to me that the satisfaction of something new is fleeting...  It is truly a vapor...  That there is not one thing that I own that still gives me joy and satisfaction like the memory of that beautiful child with my shoes...

Yesterday, I cleaned out my closet, but God cleaned out my heart...  Now I must guard it and not allow the stuff of this world to pollute it again...  I'm not saying you should never purchase anything nice, but there is a BIG difference between enjoying God's blessings and allowing them to master you so that you live extravagantly and wastefully...  I want more of those moments like the one in Swaziland that become imprinted on my heart, the ones that bring true and lasting joy...

Just one more post about Africa to go...  God's Amazing Love, Part 6, in a few days...

8 comments:

Lori said...

I'm so glad you chose to share this story. What a sweet, sweet example of the love of Jesus.

Now I'm feeling very challenged!

Beth said...

Sharla I wish you had let me take a picture of your sock feet but I understand your reason for not wanting me to. Thank you for teaching me so much on our trip. Love and miss you!

Beth

Anonymous said...

so glad you decided to write this story. Isn't it interesting how God used a pair of shoes to walk on your heart-----I can only imagine the joy you feel in your heart when you think of that sweet girl with your shoes on her feet---now, that is pure joy.
Love you

sierrasmom said...

Another thought provoking post.. We sure need it!!! Thanks Sharla!

Jen said...

I always leave your blog determined to do better, study more, give abundantly, love with my whole heart...thank you for being such an encouragement of faith and a gentle spirit to me and so many others!
Hugs,
Jen

Patientlywaiting said...

Sharla,

I have been catching up on your blog today. Wow, what powerful words and insights from your trip to Africa. Brianna has her heart set on going to Africa next summer. She even passed up a band trip to Hawaii because she feels called to Africa. Maybe we need to look into the organization you work with for her.

Hugs,
Robin

Jeff said...

Anyone who has spent any time in your blog will not question your motive for this post. Your words challenge so many, myself included. Great post!

Naomi said...

I am truly blessed to hear your story and how God has cleaned out your heart and your closet!!! I have felt that way this past year as we have cleaned house to prepare to move here. Now I find myself having to be so careful that I do not get carried away replacing the things I gave away with more stuff! You are so right, the love of that new item is fleeting but what you blessed that girl with will be eternal.

Many blessings and love to you!!!