It’s funny how things in life seem to happen in bunches. Thomas Pynchon wrote about this phenomenon in The Crying of Lot 49, the way that, once your mind is drawn to the attention of a certain idea or symbol, you suddenly seem to run into that very thing all the time. Pynchon’s point is that the idea or thing was really around you all along. You just didn’t bring it into your perception of reality until you actually acknowledged it.
When I seek to learn about and better understand God, this very same phenomenon seems to happen for me. Truths that were always right in front of me but never really seen by me suddenly become glaringly visible. Some people like to claim God is speaking with them when this type of thing happens, and who am I to disagree? However, since God is there for us all the time, I like to think it is more a factor of my finally listening.
Case in point:
Sunday service this last week focused on the uncomfortable subject of materialism. The pastor used as part of his text the parable from the twelfth chapter of Luke in which a man with abundance makes plans to build larger storehouses for his stuff, not realizing that he would die that very night. Jesus concludes in verse 21: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Now, just a few days before that sermon, I had gotten a compulsion to gather up some like-new stuffed animals from around my house and give them to a friend of mine who volunteers with an organization that, among many other things, puts together kits for hospitals to hand out to sexual assault victims, who have to leave all their personal effects with the police as evidence. My stuffed toys were for the growing number of children the hospitals are seeing as victims of assault.
In the class following the sermon, the subject of materialism remained the topic. I was able to share the need for these kits as part of the natural discussion of the class, for which I was glad. Until my friend had told me about this program, I had never thought about that as a need before. And I was pretty sure several of the people in the room hadn’t thought of this need before I mentioned it either.
On Monday, as I sat doing my daily Bible reading, which just happens to have me in the book of Psalms at the moment, I happened upon this verse–
Psalm 49:20–a man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
I sat up straighter in my chair. Luke 12:21 loomed in the back of my brain–“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” The “understanding” of the Psalms surely means the same as being “rich toward God.” My ears were being called upon to listen.
What was I going to do about it?
One of the first things I did was to keep listening and reflecting as I continued in the Psalms. These were the other truths I heard:
Psalm 51:5-6–Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. / Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Psalm 51:10-12–Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Psalm 51:17– The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Living in the most materialistic country in the world, in a world where just having clean water, a roof over my head, and some money in the bank makes me rich compared to the majority of the planet’s population, it is a daily struggle to make sure God comes before everything else. Too many times I fail. But, if I listen, I know that God will provide me with the steadfast spirit and contrite heart that will bring me closer to Him and make it so much easier to give, storing up my true treasures in heaven, the only home we’ll ever have forever.