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The Harmful Habit of Possessing

A few weeks ago, Nashville, the glitzy city bordering my own town of Clarksville, has been buried in snow. Quite unusual for this city of southern belles and country music. Consequently, many normal “luxuries” of life were briefly off limits.

Some lost power, some lost cars in icy pile ups. Some lost the convenience of travel, the expectation of running, hot water. Some went without their favorite flavor of coffee when the roads were too slick to run to the grocery store. Others of us grumbled that our favorite coffee shop was closed; so was the bank, the nail salon, the boutique! How dare we be denied these common courtesies of every day life in normal-town USA! After all, are not these the things we claim as our rights and privileges by virtue of living here, working hard and earning our keep in society?

I’m preaching to the choir here. On the outskirts of Nashville, I grumbled along with the loudest about the inconvenience and the temporary loss of “my routine, my things, my trappings” due to winter’s assault.

But, the forced solitude and quiet, brought me extra hours with Jesus, so I picked a book from the top of my “to read” list and digested the wisdom of A.W. Tozer.

“There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess.  It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns ‘my’ and ‘mine’ look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant.” 
(A.W. Tozer, from Pursuing God: “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing”)*

I wondered at my irritation for briefly possessing fewer things, fewer rights. However childish it sounds. Quite literally nature had reduced my scope of ownership and control over my own life. And here I sat, feeling quite harmed, quite wronged by my loss. But would I feel this way if I did not consider myself the owner of these privileges, the owner of myself?

“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life.  Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its out-workings are tragic.” *

This “harmful habit” was destructive to my own pursuit of God, even in just a matter of days. I never before realized the toll my possession of things, even of myself, was taking on my relationship with God!

“The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things.  The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing.  They are ‘poor in spirit.’ They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word ‘poor’ as Christ used it actually means.  These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things.  They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering.  Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. ‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ” *

I closed the book, my heart smarting with conviction. How much do I profess to own, impotent things and rights I have given my heart to, lock, stock and barrel? How much of my Christ-life are they draining from me on a daily basis as I grip them tightly declaring them, “Mine!”?

If there were such a thing as Christian “nirvana”, it would be this: to possess nothing. As Tozer said, to know God deeply through, “valleys of soul poverty”.

What do you own that in reality owns you? What kind of freedom will you experience if you willing divest yourself of this treasure?

*All quotes excerpted from A.W. Tozer’s book, Pursuing God

About Abby Kelly

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