by Mark Goldasich
Oh, sweet summertime, when the days are long and the livin’ is easy!
For most of us, summer ended with Labor Day weekend. However, the season officially lasts until Sept. 22, when we enter into fall. While some folks prefer to use the word “autumn,” I’ll stick with fall.
The word’s origin references this time of year when the leaves fall. Those trees that will soon begin to shed their leaves remind me that I’m called to shed as well.
This story explains what I mean:
A student approached the Teacher and asked, “When Jesus told the man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, did he mean that we must get rid of everything?”
The Teacher answered with a story: “Once there was a man who listened to the Scriptures. One day, he heard Jesus quoted as saying to the rich man, ‘Go! Sell all that you have, give to the poor and you will have riches in heaven. Then, come follow me.’
“The man stiffened. This was a lesson to him for he, like the rich man, was seeking salvation. First, he sold his car. After he gave the money away, he again listened and heard Jesus say, ‘Sell all!’
“Next, he sold his house. After he gave the money away, he listened again and heard Jesus say, ‘Sell all!’
“All that he had left was his Bible, which he sold for a few dollars. When he gave the money away, he again listened. This time, he heard nothing.”
The student said, “Teacher, I don’t understand the story. Why did the man hear nothing?”
The Teacher answered, “He heard nothing because he sold the one thing that brought him the voice of God. We are not asked to rid ourselves of those things that draw us close to the heart of God. Jesus told the man to sell everything because his possessions were an idol. We must rid ourselves of whatever stands in the way of God. Now, you must decide whether the things you own bring you close to — or separate you from — God.” (Story found in William R. White’s “Stories for the Journey.”)
The changing from summer to fall is an ideal time to ask: What things keep me from being close to God? What do I need to shed?
An easy place to start is with our wardrobe. As we unpack our fall clothes, examine them. How many sweaters do you really need? How many do you actually wear? Do the same with jackets, hoodies and coats, stocking hats, gloves and scarves — piling the excess ones and those hardly-ever-worn into a donate pile.
“Shedding” these items and giving them to your favorite charities right away allows those organizations to be prepared when needy people come through their doors as the temperatures drop. (And when I do it, it keeps me from holding on to items “just in case” — as in, just in case I magically lose 50 pounds so I can fit into them again!)
But beyond material possessions, fall invites us to shed sinful attitudes that separate us from God and others — gossip, greediness, selfishness, anger, busyness, etc.
Think you can’t survive without all your stuff? Take to heart this monk’s wise words to a retreatant at the monastery. Showing the man to his room, the guest master said, “If there’s anything that you need, please let us know . . . and we’ll teach you how to live without it!”