As I read about the devastation resulting from violent storms and the aftermath of war, the picture of people coping with losing everything came to the forefront. It was a period of time when life, as these individuals knew it, was radically changed.
I've had a small taste of that feeling. Different periods in my life necessitated uprooting, the loss of everything that was familiar, even all my belongings from childhood.
It was during those times that I discovered who I was. I was not my home, my possessions, my photographs, as cherished as all these things are and were. What remained was the innermost me. I learned that I could not be defined by objects or a location; my identity did not depend on a setting I called home, school, or job.
The Bible tells about a young man who approached Jesus for advice on gaining eternal life. Jesus suggested following the commandments, and the young man told him that he'd followed them since childhood. At this point the Bible says, "Jesus beholding him loved him" and told him to go and sell what he had so that the young man could have "treasure in heaven" (see Mark 10:17-21).
I've thought about the "pause" in the story - that moment when Jesus beheld him, loved him. The man was so certain he was moral and good enough for eternal life, and yet, the Master discerned something amiss in his thinking and, with love, pointed it out.
These lessons have never struck me as an edict to sell or give away everything I own. Or to live my life in poverty to prove my love for God. But these guiding words have helped me see that I will never be without provision or reminders of who I am. I know myself as a dearly loved child of God, so I don't yearn for things as much as I yearn to feel closer to Him, my Father. And I can trust Him no matter how dire the circumstance.
I love my home and all the knick-knacks that it contains, but I realize that, even if everything in it were gone tomorrow, I would still find a setting in which to live that embodied the qualities of home. Nature, the bowl of lemons on the table, shelter that keeps me warm and dry: Nothing can be lost in God's kingdom.
When I was in high school, because of the stress of a domestic situation, my family was forced to leave our home, taking with us only a few possessions. I lost most of my childhood toys in this move, as well as most of my clothes. We had moved across the country, so not only did I not have things that were familiar, I didn't have school friends. And being in a different state, even the area felt alien to me.
I sat on the porch of a large house my family had rented temporarily to shelter us after the sudden relocation. We had been in a tent all summer, but now school was about to begin and we were in a large house that was slated to be demolished for a parking lot. I didn't have much to wear to school that felt new and special. A car pulled up, and the minister from a local church asked if I lived in the house. When I said "Yes," he said, "These are for you." He placed box after box on the porch. Most of the boxes contained beautiful clothing in my size.
When I asked why, he was reluctant to say. Finally, he told me that a young woman had passed away suddenly, and her husband had asked that these boxes be given to the family "on the corner" because his wife often had spoken of stopping to pet our dog on her way to and from work.
More recently, a woman who knew me as a child gave me a doll that was the exact model of my favorite childhood companion doll. I never expected it could be replaced because the company had long gone out of business and the mold to this doll was gone. Suddenly, I found myself holding a doll so like my Laura doll. I felt like a mother reunited with her child as I remembered how I cared for her and whispered my secret thoughts to her each night at bedtime.
The woman who founded this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "Trials are proofs of God's care" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 66). Over the years I have found that it is easy to misread this to mean, if God cares for you, He will send trials. But I've discovered through my experiences of loss that to me the passage means that God will care for you when you face trials. And this is something you and I can prove, no matter what kind of trial we face.