I’m reluctant to call the circumstances I enjoy “blessings” because that implies that God favors me over others who are not experiencing a similar rain of goodness.
And yet, in my work helping Christians to grow in generosity, it is hard to find another word that better describes the basket of tangible stuff for which I express gratitude daily, and with which I ought to be generous.
So if I’m encouraging church members to become newly aware, freshly appreciative, more generous and ultimately to understand the relationship of their faith life with their “stuff,” what better word can I use than “blessings?”
I’m trying. Among many unsatisfying synonyms for “stuff” are words such as baggage, junk, gear, things, effects, luggage, objects and paraphernalia. None of those work in helping us gain a perspective of generosity and appreciation to God who provides.
But in my search one synonym in particular forced me to rethink my relationship to the “things” with which I surround myself: the word impedimenta.
Yes, the very things we surround ourselves with, that fill our lives and garages, shelves, walls and closets, that we consider essential stuff, or even “blessings,” can be an impediment to a life lived with freedom and flexibility. All of the energy and attention required to accumulate, arrange, protect, maintain and insure our “stuff” can impede our development as spiritual beings.
We have no energy left to furnish our spiritual house when we devote so much to our stuff. An “impediment” is baggage that retards our progress. And yet, the baggage that impedes us also defines us. The longer we live, the more baggage naturally accrues to us, like barnacles to our hull as we ply the sea of life.
Do you ever feel if you could just unload some of your baggage you would be free to do something that would satisfy your deeper longing? Do you want to teach but can’t give up your executive job because a teacher’s salary won’t support your large house?
Would you retire if you didn’t have six years left to pay on that dream car you’ve lusted over since you first felt the rumble of eight cylinders as a teen? Maybe you wish you could help a poor child attend church camp this summer, but you just replaced a room of “old” furniture.
Your church is growing and needs your help but you’ve got a big bare spot on a wall perfect for that original three dimensional art piece you just saw at the show downtown. You have coats for cool weather, cold weather and frigid weather, but you need one for rainy cold weather so you can’t buy a coat for the person who has none. Impedimenta.
Americans are dragging so much baggage along with us that storage is a $24 billion business. Bloomberg reported in December 2014 that the U.S. had 48,500 mini-warehouse facilities, with a combined 2.3 billion square feet of space – or seven square feet for every man, woman and child in the country.
According to the national Self Storage Association one of every 10 households in the U.S. rents a unit. It’s not uncommon to spend more to store items over time than the items are worth.
In an emergency, our relationship to stuff can change dramatically. Precious cargo crossing the sea becomes so much ballast to cast overboard when the ship is in danger of sinking. Settlers crossing Rocky Mountain passes in the 19th century tossed goods out of the wagon when the horses could not pull the weight.
What “blessings” are you willing to shed so that you may take the next step toward a life defined by freedom and generosity without impediment?
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation about generosity in your church.