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The Illusion of Stuff

Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night to stumble to your kitchen, turn on the faucet and pour yourself a glass of water?

Cool, clean water that gurgles into your glass and quenches parched lips and thirst. You mindlessly drink it and stumble back to the comforts of your warm, soft bed.

Have you ever stopped to consider the magnificence of this simple act of getting a glass of water?

I am ashamed to admit that the majority of my life I had never given a second thought to the marvel of a simple glass of clean water.

Not until 2005- the year my husband and I went to Africa.

We volunteered to go on a mission’s trip with the agenda of overseeing the handling of donations to a particular village in Zambia.

Bags, bug spray, penicillin and malaria medication all packed and ready to go!

We set off believing that we would be the ones to enrich the lives of the Zambezi people not realizing that we were the ones needing the enrichment.

We spent two solid weeks traveling around the countryside, learning the culture, meeting the people and witnessing life in a third-world nation.

We observed the extreme conditions that the Zambezi people faced so foreign to those of us that live in prosperity.

The typical for a rural village:

Transportation- Your own two feet (hope you have good shoes) or if you are very fortunate, a bicycle.

Housing- A hut that is comprised of one room, dirt floor, a straw pallet for a bed, stools for furniture, no heating/air and certainly no plumbing. If you have the luxury of a net to drape over your bed to protect you from flies and mosquitos you are blessed.

Clothing- Prized possession to own a good pair of shoes and an outfit or two, with many children going barefoot. Church charities and hand-me-downs are a necessity as there are NO clothing stores to purchase items.

Food- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if you are lucky to have enough food for three meals) consist of “nshima “(porridge type grain similar to polenta or grits), and occasionally beef, chicken, eggs or some fruit added. For an extra treat, insects are delicacies like grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas and fried termites! Water and coffee are your beverages of choice and food is literally cooked around a roaring fire.

Water- Wells containing clean water are cherished and scarce as they provide all the water a family uses for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundry. A woman’s duty is to DAILY walk MILES to collect water to be used for her family. She may have to make multiple trips and could easily walk 3+ miles per day just to fill her jug of water and travel home again. Cooking, bathing and doing laundry takes on a whole new meaning!

Lavatory- The great outdoors or an out-house that consists of a hole in the ground and two bricks for your feet. (I’ll spare you the picture!)

Our time spent in Zambia was both

enlightening and humbling, and I was shocked to discover that I was jealous of them.

Yes, jealous of all the riches they possessed!

Henry David Thoreau said it best, --

"Give me the poverty that enjoys true wealth."

Never before had I witnessed such authentic, open, loving, caring people that were filled with sheer grace, peace, and gratitude. They radiated joy, and I struggled with how it could be true when they were surrounded daily by extreme poverty, disease, and death.

What I witnessed was a profound truth that outward conditions aren’t necessary for happiness; rather the inward condition of our heart is what matters. A heart that recognizes, relies on and responds to God for their daily provision, protection, and survival!

The Zambezi people were rich in spirit because of their relationship and reliance upon God. Their faith overflowed as they daily looked to God for their source of contentment.

They were living testaments of these Scriptures:

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." ~ 1 Timothy 6:6-8

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

I came away from this trip, humbled because I realized I was the one in poverty in what mattered.

For most of us that live in a first-world country, we take for granted the excess we have been given, the luxury of the convenient and the basic necessities needed for survival that are a standard in our society!

We fret over not having something new to wear, not getting that designer purse or a pair of shoes. We spend our lives in competition with others for the bigger house, the prestigious neighborhood, the high-priced car or getting tickets to that premier concert, NFL game or golf tournament.

We hoard, we covet, we envy, we boast, and we brag over material possessions.

We focus our lives on stuff rather than on God.

The sad irony is that we have fooled ourselves into believing these things bring lasting contentment and happiness. We accepted a masterful lie that keeps us distracted from the truth.

The truth that real treasure is not found in the stuff of this world; rather found in cultivating our relationship with God.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21

Don’t buy into the illusion that stuff will make you happy; the Zambezi people are living proof to the contrary.

So, the next time you pour yourself a glass of water….

Be thankful for the simple things that God has provided. Focus on Him as your source of happiness, contentment, and provision.

For God is the good stuff that genuinely lasts!

Father, thank you that you are a God that provides. May we seek first your kingdom above the temporary things of this world. You alone meet all of our needs, wants and desires. Remind us that happiness and contentment aren't found in this world separate and apart from you. Help us, Lord, to see the material things of this world as temporary provisions from you not a replacement for you.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” ~Luke 12:15

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