There are a few important phrases that God brings to my mind so often these days. Here’s one:
“Terri, spend yourself.” God whispers this to me a lot, and honestly, I don’t always want to hear it.
Then Jesus told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He said to himself, ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’”
(Let me interrupt the story right here because doesn’t this sound reasonable so far? Hey, it’s a lesson from Dave Ramsey, financial expert, right? In our credit card world, surely this rich man has the right idea. Stewardship! Saving! Financial peace! OK, back to Jesus …)
“But just then God showed up and said, ‘You fool – tonight you die, and your barnful of goods – who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” (Luke 12: 16-21)
Ah, not a Dave Ramsey example.
So who here has a tendency to fill their barn with Self? Anyone?
Some time back, with divorce looming ever closer like a storm coming up from the southwest, I started to think about getting older and retirement and depressing stuff like that. In the midst of those thoughts and worries, I heard God speak to me. “Terri, you’re not looking far enough out.”
Further than retirement?
Like … death? ☹
(I don’t know if God ever rolls his eyes, but if so, He might have been rolling them at me right about here.)
OHHHH, like eternity. OK, I get it now, God. And that’s how one piece of the large jigsaw puzzle I’ve been working on began to fall into place.
Because so often, I’m not looking far enough out. I’m filling my barn with Self. I’m busy storing up treasures here on earth. I’m gathering in my grain and goods. You get the idea.
“By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going … Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Look further, friends.
In the past year, I’ve attended several funerals. Once there, I usually sense I’m close to the edge of something … and I’m standing a safe distance back from the edge and shading my eyes with my hands so I can look from afar. What am I looking for? That further place that God keeps reminding me about. Eternity. Often as I sit in a funeral service, I’m reminded of the second habit of highly effective people (according to author Stephen Covey):
Begin with the end in mind.
And I hear the eulogy … the things that are remembered when this part of life is finished. The many ways my friend served God and others. The way he lived with integrity and honor. Her giving heart. The courage and selflessness in the face of fear. These things leave an indelible mark even if they’re forgotten here.
In fact, I’m intrigued by the thought that we have already begun our eternal life … we already possess our one-of-a-kind soul. Day by day, chance by chance, we’re either developing our soul in God’s image of beauty or we’re letting it get all dark and ugly. And when we die, the time and effort we have spent on others and God will be the only things we take with us … the things we’ve actually saved. Needless to say, time or money or energy spent on Self will have already disappeared or worse, imprinted an ugly mark on those left behind.
So. Where do you want to end up? What do you want people to say at your funeral? Stephen Covey would tell you to write it down. Then whatever it is, make the daily choices to live that way right now. Even if you’re 20 and you live to 100, the time is short, folks. Spend yourselves.
“… and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
I kinda love that verse. How do I make my dark world lighter? By spending myself.
To be clear, this isn’t really about money at all. God doesn’t ask us to empty out our retirement funds. These verses aren’t urging us to fail to plan for our future or give up all the things we enjoy. I enjoy financial planning and I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey’s advice to live within our means, save, and give.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” — Jesus (Luke 6:38)
It’s about a giving spirit. We are to learn His way and follow it. He’s asking us to give a generous measure. To make time for people. To look for the needs. To extend kindness and grace. To give a ride. Make a call. Do the uncomfortable thing. To risk caring. To commit to pray. To pour yourself out. I suspect it’s like working out (I’ve been doing Blogilates with my daughter daily): The more we give, the greater our capacity to give.
Trust me when I say I’m far from perfect at this, but it has become one of the things I most want. Yesterday, my Jessers (Schnauzer-girl) and I were finishing our walk and nearing my condo. I saw my elderly neighbor down on his knees next to the mailbox, his car still running and radio on. I asked if he needed help. Long story short: he did and I called 911, stayed and talked him through it, listened to his fears and frustration, found his phone and glasses. I waited in the grass as the paramedics helped him. And the prayer that came to mind in that moment? Thank you, Father, for giving me a chance to spend myself today. Not because I’m anything great or did anything you guys wouldn’t have done. It’s just that, to get to the ending I want … to be the person I want to be … I want chances like this. And you know what? Those chances are everywhere, lining the road. Almost like faces that lined a road to a cross.
And yes, I really do know – you may be in a terrible situation right now. Your world may be dark. Life has been hard lately. You’re hurting or sick or afraid. Stressed. Let down. In limbo. You have experienced great loss. You feel like a failure. Life is a mess. You have no control. But … you still have this (and no one can take it away): your choice to give, to spend yourself. To fill yourself up with the goodness of God and then spend and keep spending. That is the incredible gift He gives us: the choice to become more like Him. If you’re on a hard road right now, my best advice is to keep your eyes on the end goal and give your way through it.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” — Apostle Paul (II Timothy 4:6)
“It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” — Jesus (Matthew 20:28)
This is God’s way and He gave us the ultimate example in the flesh. Jesus held nothing back. Owned no barn. Filled nothing with Self. Poured His life out to empty and then refilled, day after day. Spent Himself. Kept the end in mind.
The reward is great. The opportunities are sheer gifts … chances to spend yourself and fill your barn to the brim with God instead of Self.
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.” (Hebrews 12:2)
How to begin?
With the end in mind.
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or — worse! — stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Matthew 6:19-21)