A simple question arrested me: What do you have that you did not receive? As I paused and thought through my catalogue of possessions and abilities it dawned on me that my simple answer was: nothing. Not even my life. My mind continued to unfold this idea, and my thoughts became a trail of bread crumbs. If my life was given to me, what can I actually claim is mine? What about the things I have, the education and skills I possess, the relationships I cherish? I found that I could not claim sole proprietor for any of these things. Much of what I have and can do are a result of people loving me, helping me, and providing for me not only in childhood, but throughout my life. A line of family members, teachers, mentors, coaches all came to mind. I realized that any success, indeed anything that I have, is more a product of the grace and the generosity of others than my own merit. This seed sprouted roots and started to dig deep into my heart.
What if, instead of counting my possessions as self worth, I saw them as examples of generosity and love? What if I no longer paraded these things around- my house, car, latest smart phone, you name it- as if they were some sort of physical confirmation of my success? In a way I found it rather pitiful. I was substituting a paltry menagerie of things as validation to the world. I was saying, you should love me because now I have this shiny new stuff! In defense of stuff, there is nothing wrong with it; rather, the problem is our way of mixing up who is the owner. Instead of pointing to things as a way to announce, “I am worthy!” or “I am a success!”, what if we pointed to them and said “These are gifts”? If everything is a gift, then we are simply stewards. My self-worth is not dependent on things that can be lost in a moment, but on finding ways to use what I have, while I have, so that I may be of some good. Our value is not in what we accumulate, for this could perish in the next storm, but in how we use the generosity graciously received to be a gift to others.