In February, I found myself spending time in the slums of Mumbai, India while on a research expedition for my dissertation on Human Trafficking in India.
It had long been a dream of mine to spend time in the slums and make some friends. While many of my friends here in the west want to go to an exotic Caribbean locale when they travel, I much prefer hanging out in dirty places with poor people.
I get way more out of sitting in a slum and listening to a person’s story than I do sitting on the beach sipping a pina colada.
I’ve done both, and I’ll take a dusty road and a compelling story any day of the week.
The more I endeavor to be like Jesus, the more I crave moments like these… away from the clutter, away from the noise, away from the things that distract me… so I can be with people, listen to their stories, and affirm the infinite worth God has already given them.
The photo above is an image of myself along with some friends I made in the slums– after we met, they eagerly invited me to come visit their home, which I gladly did. This image, is of their entire home– all of it– as in, the person who took the picture was pushed back up against the far wall of the home.
It was about the size of a bathroom here in Americaland.
All of their possessions? Everything they own is in the photo. In this one image, you’ve seen their living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom, kids room, and every item they are able to call “mine”.
And, you know what? This soon-to-be family of four had a richer, more authentic faith– and content outlook on life– than most Americans I know.
As I sat with them in their kitchen, living room and bedroom, I began to ask myself: why do these guys get what we don’t? I quickly realized inside that I already knew the answer…
You and I need less shit in our lives.
I’m sorry if that offends you, but let me challenge you that (a) you should be more offended that my friends, and millions like them, live on less than a dollar a day and (b) you should be more offended that I saw girls as young as 10 years old being sold for sex, just outside their window.
So, yes– you and I have entirely too much shit in our lives.
Seriously- there’s no more delicate way to say this. You and I have entirely too much stuff and it’s getting in the way of us connecting with God, and connecting with each other.
I get that we have good justifications for why we own it, how we use it (I do too), and why we still hold onto it, but to be honest, we have way to much. It’s out of control, and no matter how we want to justify it, the amount of stuff we have is creating a barrier between ourselves and God, and ourselves and others.
It’s simply not conducive to this whole idea of abandoning everything so we can be radically like Jesus.
It’s not conducive in helping us empathize and express solidarity with, the poor and oppressed of this world.
And, it certainly doesn’t help us connect to God in deeper and more authentic ways.
Having too much stuff, complicates relationships.
The more things we have, the less we are forced to rely on God and develop trust in this relationship. The more things we have, the more we want, and we enter into a never ending cycle of coveting, which by nature replaces God.
If we want to connect on deeper levels to God and the world around us, we need to embrace that less is more.
The more we purge and the less we hold onto, the more free we are to freely give and freely trust.
And, I’m not just talking about purging our material possessions and getting rid of more than what we actually need– I’m talking about that emotional stuff as well.
I’ve noticed over the course of time that when my desk is cluttered with paper, keys and all the other stuff that ends up dumped on it, I write slower, my thoughts are less organized, and I find the entire process much more of a challenge.
In the same way, when our lives and relationships become cluttered with emotional baggage that’s spent years piling up, it all becomes way more of a challenge than it need be.
But that stuff?
THAT is a lot harder to let go of, but is perhaps more destructive in our quest to connect with God and others in authentic and meaningful ways.
You know that unforgiveness you’re carrying around?
The anger, bitterness, hurt, rejection?
Whatever that is, that’s what I’m talking about.
That stuff is getting in the way. It’s making it harder for you to connect with God. It’s making it harder for you to be free and authentic in other relationships.
You’ve gotta offload that. Whatever it is that you’re carrying around– you’re the only one carrying it. Holding onto it, is only hurting you.
And you’re missing out.
You can be free to give, free to receive, free to trust, free to be whoever God created you to be.
But, you’ve gotta offload whatever “that” is. You can’t carry it anymore.
Now is the time.
I’m reminded of a story in which Jesus told a crowd “Whoever here is tired of carrying that stuff around– come, follow me. What I’ll give you to carry is light and won’t be a burden.”
But our stuff? It’s a burden. It’s not light.
Our consumerism, materialism, and our ability to hold onto bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, doesn’t fit within the paradigm of Jesus.
We’ve gotta offload it.
All of it.
Let us endeavor to own less, give more, and live in emotional freedom.
Because that’s where Jesus calls us to.
That’s where we’ll find life.
I’ll meet you there, and we’ll walk together, ok?