Trappings. Today.

Somewhere in my mid- to late-thirties I began giving mental and physical voice to a two-part question that had been growing in me for some time: that is, how can people have faith that God will meet their every material need; and what is keeping me from having the same faith? I knew that other believers had modeled total and expectant dependence on God; and I knew that I had not. I was vaguely aware of one Hudson Taylor, British missionary to inland China in the Nineteenth Century. Taylor refused to ask humans for provisions to support his missions, choosing instead to rely on God to miraculously bring what the mission required. God provided. Is all I knew about it. That sounded outstanding and exemplary. So why shouldn’t I do the same thing that Hudson Taylor did? Might not God be willing to provide for my needs in the same way? I remember even presenting that question in our church homegroup one evening in 2007 or thereabouts. I don’t recall anyone having an answer.

For one thing, I kept asking the wrong question. The better question would have been, “Why DON’T I trust God enough to provide for my every physical need?” Not, “Why SHOULDN’T I?” And then, having asked the wrong question, I would think about the modern electronic economy; my salaried job; monthly mortgage and utilities; automotive purchase and maintenance; taxes; my growing family; and everything else that raises its head in such a consideration. And I would decide that if I was ever going to trust God to provide for my every need, it would have to be later. There just wasn’t any way that He could make Himself fit into all of those qualifications. Then I would go back to safely wondering why I shouldn’t have the same faith as a Hudson Taylor.

From the mid-00’s on into summer of 2013, my faith journey took some wild leaps and bounds, and I forgot all about wondering why I shouldn’t trust God for every little thing. Then I read a book about evangelist John G. Lake, who ministered in South Africa and the United States during the early Twentieth Century. I referenced this reading in my first blog post, Hello, Man. Hello, World. I was reading the book primarily because I was interested in learning about Lake’s prodigious gift of miraculous healing. As an added bonus I discovered that Lake had decided to divest himself and family of all (substantial) financial assets and to trust God to provide everything his ministry required. God provided. Boom. Radical trust was back on my radar. My radar promptly got buried under the demands of an isosceles triangle and life in general. I didn’t give much more deliberate thought of such radical trust until December 2014.

By the time last December rolled around, I was just weeks back from my LINY trip. On my flight home from LINY, I finally realized that God was trustworthy. Not in a sense that I was going to go off the grid and wait for ravens to bring me crusts of bread; but in general, I knew for the first time in my life that I could trust God. The plane landed and I decompressed for a few weeks. Hudson Taylor came back into the forefront of my mind and made himself very comfortable.

I found a used book, a biography written by Hudson Taylor’s children. I dug into the biography. I was predictably humbled by Taylor’s trust and God’s provision. In December of 2014 I was not so skeptical as I had been in years past of God’s ability to and desire to provide for us. Before I’d even finished the Taylor biography, I told God one night, “I want the freedom and vulnerability to depend on You for everything. But how does that work in this society, with so much ‘mandatory’ participation in an electronic economy? It sounds impossible. But You can do the impossible.” I left it at that.

That same night, a voice spoke into my sleep:

“Look today around you. That which is trappings is a trap. All else is necessary.” Then something about contentment that I didn’t hear completely.

I awoke, very interested. The spoken words were unrelated to the dream I was having at the same time. The phrasing of the message was not something that I’d have put together on my own, which made the thing immediately striking. The structure of that first sentence seemed to deliberately feature the word ‘today’. It would have been, in my opinion, more natural to say, “Look around you today.” Any time I spend energy analyzing the way the words are put together, I end up believing the message is of a spiritual origin. If my own brain wouldn’t have ever said it that way, then it was said to me. Is how I see it. And with regard to this specific message, I couldn’t come up with a reason Satan would have bothered to pass it along. So I quickly believed the message was from God.

I assumed I had heard a divine instruction to look around me on Wednesday, December 4, 2014; to take stock of the trappings I was hanging on to. I just ended a sentence with a preposition. But I had many questions. “What exactly constitutes a ‘trapping’, anyway?” More importantly, “How do I know for sure what is a trapping versus an essential?” And check out how the word ‘trap’ is right there in the word ‘trappings’. Who knew? Not me. Another reason to think the thing was spiritual and divine: what has Satan to gain from cleverly prompting any one of us to be more aware of our attachment to the world?

*

Later that same morning I recounted the event to a friend at work. He is someone with whom I had already shared much about the Triangle Map and related mysteries; and he’s also a fellow ‘very interested’ guy. He likes to know about a lot of different things. So I felt very comfortable telling him about yet another voice in my sleep. He got up and left my office, then promptly returned with a book he’d been reading the previous night. It was about an Australian travel writer and his dealings with aborigines. Something like that. In one part of the book, the author wrote of visiting with a former Catholic priest-turned hermit. Of the hermit, he related:

“Today, he said, more than ever before, men had to learn to live without things. Things filled men with fear: the more things they had, the more they had to fear. Things had a way of riveting themselves on to the soul and then telling the soul what to do.”

My friend and I were hit between the eyes by the remarkably coincidental nature of the two messages we’d independently come across in the previous night. Not only did both directives apparently relate to the deceptively enslaving nature of materialism; but they each featured the word ‘today’. (So cool.) And we came across them within hours of each other; he, from reading a travel journal written some thirty years ago; I, with a word I heard in my sleep. The odds are pretty slim that anyone who just read that book in December of 2014, would have such a conversation with someone who’d heard anything at all, much less what I had heard the night before, in their sleep. It was a simple thing to acknowledge that something spiritual and deliberate had just happened to both of us.

My perspective on the sleep message changed. Prior to the discussion and revelation with my coworker, I’d assumed the voice was instructing me to take assessment of my life on a specific day. After the conversation in my office, there looked to be a greater chance that the voice was referring more broadly to people in general. That’s about as far as I took it at the time. There was a lot happening in December and subsequent months, and I lost focus of this particular episode not long after it happened. With every blog post since then, I’ve remembered that there was something important about the concurrent admonitions about material things; and I always ultimately decided to write about other more pressing events, instead.

A couple of weeks ago, I re-read my earlier attempts at writing this blog entry. I was reminded that the evening before I heard the directive in my sleep, I’d told God I was prepared to trust Him to provide whatever I needed. That bit of information had completely slipped my mind over the preceding eight months. And it’s a critical element of the story. As soon as I was humbled enough to trust God more than I had, He revealed some more of Himself to a couple of guys in a random corporate office, in work-a-day USA. And now to you, the reader.

**

I’m more interested in getting this thing posted than I am in writing a thousand words about trappings and contentment. The events I’ve related in this post are, I think, relevant for every one of us. I know that I personally need to get focused on what God would have me do about stuff. I’m a pretty low-maintenance guy; and I know I could stand to care less about things than I already do. I don’t acquire a lot; but the things that I acquire, I tend to hang on to with a death grip, ‘just in case.’ That ‘just in case’ is where I need to trust God.

We are now officially in THE time of THE year that many independent people believe God has warned of, regarding potential calamity and social disruption. A message about trappings is not out of line. No matter what happens in the rest of this year, none of us need put faith in our stuff more than in God.

***

“Look today around you. That which is trappings is a trap. All else is necessary.”

“Today, he said, more than ever before, men had to learn to live without things. Things filled men with fear: the more things they had, the more they had to fear. Things had a way of riveting themselves on to the soul and then telling the soul what to do.”

****

My friend has confirmed that the book in which he read his portion of the ‘oracle’ is The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin.

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