The Long Story

Miniature Harp

I didn’t go into my Gospels class that morning thinking my life was going to change.  But here I sit four years later, realizing how it has.

On this particular day, our assignment was to get into groups and to read Mark’s 10th chapter, in which an authoritative, wealthy young man approaches Jesus and asks Him how to receive eternal life.

After performing His classic riddling routine, Jesus finally tells the guy, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Now in the past, when I have read this story, there have been countless explanations of exactly what was going on here and exactly what Jesus might have meant.  “Well, He didn’t actually mean for the ruler to sell all of his possessions – just the expensive and excessive things.”  Or “Yes, Jesus said that and He meant it, but this was one of those times when Jesus was speaking specifically to this man, and He didn’t mean for it to be a universal truth for all rich people.” Or “Jesus doesn’t want us to store up our treasures here.  He doesn’t mind if we have things as long as we don’t worship our things.”

In the past, I have always accepted these explanations, and I have made up my own explanations.  I have read Mark 10 and gone on unchanged.

But on this specific day, in my little class at Greenville College, the Lord gave me fresh eyes with which to read.  I finished the last sentence, and asked myself, “Wait.  What if Jesus really meant that?”

What if He wasn’t speaking in hyperbole?  What if He was sharing a universal truth?  What if there is something inherent in wealth that acts as a block to experiencing the kingdom of heaven and the eternal life that is offered there?

{Let me pause my story for a moment to tell you that I am not talking about salvation here.  Jesus took care of that on the cross and there is no amount of pruning and do-good-ing and learning and adjusting to His ways that I can do that will earn me more than He earned in His death.  I am talking about experiencing the abundant life that He has for me now that I am His – the power to heal, the unending joy, the all-surpassing peace.  His very kingdom on earth.}

I began exploring this idea more and more, discovering how wealthy I truly am, and facing the fact that I am very much like the rich young man who encountered Jesus.  My wealth has for so long been staring me in the face as I go through the banquet table of my mind, dismissing unwanted guests like fear, anxiety, and jealousy; honoring others like joy and servanthood.  My wealth has been asking for a seat, and I have tried to fit her somewhere.  But every time I find her a seat, I look into the eyes of the Head of my table.  I see the oppressed widows and the lost children and the sex slaves gathered around Him, and I cannot allow my wealth to stay.

The weeks and years between that particular class session and today are filled with more epiphanies and discoveries and stories about me facing my wealth than you would ever care to read here.  So I will not tell you about my trip to a real, live leper colony in the Dominican.  I will not tell you how I came home to my government subsidized “poor people” housing and marveled at the way my walls and ceilings are actually adjoined, which is more than most Dominicans I encountered can say.  I will not share with you how I feel about the fact that just because I have money in the bank, in my purse, and also in a spare change dish, I am more wealthy than 92% of the world.  I will not tell you how the movie Taken was the first I had ever heard about sex trafficking and how I couldn’t sleep for days afterward and that the way things came together allowed me to work hand-in-hand for over a year with an organization that has rescued and rehabilitated more sex slaves than I have ever heard of.  I will not tell you how I found a list of goods imported to America and how now, most days, I just can’t bring myself to buy something that I know was made in a country that uses child labor or slave labor, no matter how much I want it.

Instead, I will tell you this.  I am rich.  Financially, intellectually, spiritually.  I have power and authority to change a lot of things.  And the Lord has been asking me to change this.  Truth be told, as wealthy as I am, there are not very many of my possessions that I could sell with the intent to raise money for the poor that you would want to buy.  But I am good with my hands, and I am creative and artistic.  So I have been purging my closets, setting aside some possessions that I know I could actually sell for money, and scouring the Internet for ways to upcycle everything else.  I now know how to make beautiful Christmas decorations from old CDs.  I know how to make about a dozen different kinds of scarfs out of old t-shirts.  I can string pop-can tabs together into a bracelet that you would want to wear.  I have made paintings and book sculptures and Bible verse art and coffee filter flowers, and I can bend wire into words that look simply beautiful hanging on the wall.  I have ways to sell my possessions and to give to the poor, and the Lord is asking me to do that.

On this site, I have what I like to call my “artistic harvest” – my writings, my music, my art, and (most importantly) a store where you can buy new things that I make out of old things.  Each purchase you make will be used to help the poor.

For our first project, we will raise $600 to pay for vocational training for one year for one girl that has been rescued from sex trafficking.  {Update: we met and exceeded our first goal!  I’ve decided to keep raising funds for the same organization until further notice.}  After that, we might choose a different goal.  It may be providing a clean water well to a village.  Or it might have something to do with the lepers I met.  Or maybe feeding hungry babies.

Either way, I will be getting rid of junk, you will be getting pretty things for your home, and we will both be joining together to bring light into the dark places on earth.

I have been writing blogs for quite some time, and I am thrilled to finally have a mission and a purpose in my writing.  To pause for a moment and consider Grace, and in that considering, to see Him in greater light.  To pursue His kingdom with all of me, and to encourage you to do the same.  I have full confidence that in doing so, this new website will be filled with more and more stories of Jesus’ eternal life crashing into mine, but I cannot do it alone.

I invite you to join me in this endeavor.  To help me sell my possessions and give to the poor.  Please visit www.considergrace.com.  Please tell your friends about my site.  Please consider giving to this cause.


Photo by Brian Wolfe(y).

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2 Comments

  • Reply Midgie Bardo July 17, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Anna Joy, I want to thank you so much for this blog! There are so many reasons – for one, it’s added to my gratitude for all the riches with which God has blessed me. Gratitude has been uppermost in my mind lately – we’re in the middle of losing our home, yet have been blessed with finding a beautiful older home to rent with our son and his family. It’s just taking one day at a time right now – which is what Jesus told us to do! Also, I’m very grateful to have the list you shared of the countries and goods using child and slave labor. I look at my precious grandchildren, and can’t imagine the horror of them working long hours – or worse yet, in slavery.

    As soon as I’m able, I’ll be shopping your site – hopefully within the next couple of paychecks! Thank you for adding to my reminders of how rich I truly am!

    • Reply Anna Joy July 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Midgie! Thank you for your sweet response. I am so thankful that you could find some good, helpful things in my post. And I’m sending up a little prayer for you now with the housing situation.

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