When I think of home, I think of South Carolina, specifically Clemson and Conway. These are two places where I don't worry about anything. Most of my family lives in Conway and whether we speak to each other every day or not, it's a given that if something were to happen, we can call each other. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Conway, so I know a ton of people and a ton of places. Since it's common for families to stick around that area, not only do I have lots of family there, but lots of family friends. For every occasion, I know who to call. Electricians, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, chefs, hair dressers, preachers, etc. For most of things, I know multiple people who can get the job done.
Even though I spent less time in Clemson, it's where I met some of my closest friends. Despite the fact that incidents do happen there, I always felt safe in Clemson. I met friends that I could trust and I was happy. In Clemson, I could be an adult without actually being an adult. In addition to faculty and staff at the school that I trusted, I have family just an hour away and more family about 2 hours away. The drive from Clemson to Conway is only 4.5 hours and I have family and friends living in various cities in between. I never worried about anything in Clemson...
When I took the opportunity to move to Gainesville, FL for graduate school, much of my motivation was to see something new; so instead of being fearful, I was excited. I had only been there a week when I realized I was no longer in my comfort zone. I didn't know anyone there or even close to there. I didn't know people in cities between home and there, in fact, I couldn't even name the cities between home and there. The culture of the school was different and I didn't trust many of the people I met. So, when the excuse to return to Clemson arose, I took it with haste.
Back at Clemson, everything was great again (minus the weather!), and I was back at home, but there was a restlessness that hadn't been there before. Slowly but surely, God started removing the people I felt most comfortable with from the area so that it felt less and less like home. Until one day my advisor (who also functioned as my boss) announced he had quit. Once again, I was at the cross road to choose: do I follow my advisor 11 hours away from home to unknown territory or do I stay?
Matthew 19:16-30 tells the story of a rich man who came to see Jesus. The rich man wanted to know what he should do to gain eternal life and was shocked by Jesus' answer. Simply living by the commandments was not enough. Jesus commanded the man to get rid of all of his possessions—worldly possessions—and follow Him. If you think about it, that's the command Jesus has given everyone, and it's a pretty powerful command.
We often refer to the young man in this story as the rich man, but for this post, I want you to think of "rich" the same way you think about the word "wealthy," because I want to bring in a perspective we don't often dwell upon. Riches can disappear with a quickness, but wealth tends to be long lived. When someone says riches, we think of money and possessions, but wealth brings on the connotation of permanence and stability. This testimony is about stability.
We all have what is referred to as "the comfort zone," and we are normally hesitant to move beyond this zone, just as I was. Moses worried about public speaking; that was out of his comfort zone. The Israelites weren't sure about making it to The Promised Land or taking on the Canaanites to secure the land; that was out of their comfort zone. In Matthew 19, Jesus asking the rich man to give up his wealth was out of the rich man's comfort zone. Our comfort zone provides us with stability. Even if we don't have the best of everything in our comfort zone, we understand the environment of that world and we are confident in ourselves to be able to handle anything that comes our way in that environment.
But if we are confident in our own abilities to get us through situations, why do we need God? You'll notice that every time God called someone, He took them out of their comfort zone. It's an exercise in trust; will we give up what we perceive to be stability for the promise of God's everlasting stability. When Jesus asked the rich man to get rid of his possessions and follow Him, there was purpose in the command. The man could have easily left his possessions in the care of a family member or friend as he followed Jesus. Small items might have even been simple enough to carry along on the journey. Jesus instructed the man to part with all these possessions because He wanted the man to focus on God and to trust that God would provide for Him. Following Jesus wasn't meant to be a break from "real life" with the option of returning to life as it was before; it is meant to be a permanent change.
As you can image, my relationship with Christ grew the most while I was in Gainesville. That uncomfortableness brought me closer to God because I had no one else to put my faith in. When presented with the opportunity to step out on the ledge again, I found myself compelled to take it. There was no room to grow back in South Carolina.
It was during this move that I began to understand some of what the rich man must have been feeling. In Clemson, $800 will get you a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in a gated community overlooking the lake with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and vaulted ceilings. In South Florida, $800 will get you a single room in an apartment you have to share with other people. I had to pay more for less space. I had to give up a view of the lake for a view of the garbage dump. My bed was too large to fit comfortably in the bedroom and my couch too large for the living room. I no longer had a study room and I couldn't fit all my pots in the kitchen. For all intents and purposes, I was wealthy (re: comfortable) in Clemson and I left to be poor (re: uncomfortable) in South Florida.
Once again, my relationship with God began to take off. I found myself rereading the Bible (because, when you don't know anyone you don't have plans to obstruct your time with God!) and as I reread the Bible, I find myself understanding more, praying more, learning and trusting more. I realized I didn't need all the things I thought I needed. Even though I love my family and friends, I realized I could stand without them. Most importantly, I realized personally why Jesus told the rich man to sell everything and follow Him. We hear these lessons all the time and we know the moral of the story, but we rarely relate it to ourselves. You may not be wealthy or rich in the worldly sense of the word, but you may be stable and stagnant. Remember, when God calls upon us, it's always to make a change and it always requires us to venture into uncharted territory. In that change, we call out to Him. So, if Jesus asked you to give up everything, literally, to follow Him, would you?
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.