I had a mini panic attack at the Target check-out line the other day.
I had spend almost an hour in the store, checking items of my Africa packing list. Trying to be frugal and trying to not miss anything important is tough. Do I buy the least expensive, most compressible, or most lightweight sleeping bag? What is an appropriate amount of shampoo to pack for six weeks? How often will I even have opportunities to wash my hair?
And now here I was at the register, a cart full of bags, swiping my card furiously to the same repeated message: Card not accepted. Please try again.
I was so frustrated, walking out of Target empty-handed because it seemed to represent my inability to adequately prepare for this trip. Here I thought I was getting so much accomplished and I needed all those things, but now I had nothing to show for it. I drove straight home, turned on the tea pot and took a book outside. This spring sun is an amazing mood lifter.
Later that day, I watched a video recommended by a friend, called “Living On One Dollar“. It is the story of four college students who moved to a Guatemalan village for 56 days to experience poverty first hand. They lived on only 1 dollar each day, simulating the living situation of over 1 billion of the world’s population.
Watching the video — seeing how buying just enough food to stay alive and not being able to afford schoolbooks for their children, is such a reality for many people — made my heart ache. I felt a strange mixture of compassion and conviction. There is much I have taken for granted without considering that the life I live is a luxury compared to others.
In Togo, more than 32% of the population live beneath the poverty level ($1 dollar a day). On the other side of the world, I stand in the brightly lit aisle of the Target superstore, look at shelves packed with colorful packages from floor to ceiling, throw items in my cart without much of a thought, respond to texts on my unlimited cell phone plan, and drive away on a four-lane highway with a tank full of gas. And for some reason I feel “deprived” if any of these “necessities” are denied me? When my credit card was not accepted (because of a bank error), I somehow felt my right to living was violated. What I don’t often think about is that what I think I “need” is far far more than what most people survive on each day.
In my devotions lately, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 27. It’s been so good for me to soak in this heart-cry of David, to let these words of Scripture to sink in deep into my mind and soul, and change my prayers, and attitudes.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
When I come to the Word of God, I realize that there is really only one thing I need. I need Jesus and I need unbroken fellowship with Him.
It is the one thing Paul talks about in Philippians 3:13-14: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
And it is the one thing that Jesus called the rich young ruler to embrace: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
The one thing that is needed is to need Jesus as the only thing I need.
As I think about going to Africa (less than 1 month!), it is easy to get caught up on the details of packing, the fundraising, and even the excitement of travel instead of the main and most important thing — Jesus, the one who calls me and who gives me a message to share. He asks me to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” — to give Him glory as my first love, and to trust Him that “all these things will be added to you.”
I’ve been convicted that if Christ is not the most important thing in my life, He is not glorified through me as my Lord. I am not seeing Him for who He truly is or His salvation as truly sufficient to meet all my needs. To know that I am rescued from the death of my sin, that I have a sure hope in heaven, and that I am securely and infinitely and personally loved by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe — what more can I ask for?
This is the same thing that every person needs. And our mutual need for this one thing is what connects me to others — to the person driving by on the highway, to the person sitting on my city sidewalk, to the person half a world away living such a different reality than my own.
To be with God and gaze upon the beauty of His fulness is completely satisfying because that is the one thing we are truly made for. I want others to know that, to know the richness of His love. Even if our lives on this earth are polar opposites, the gospel is a treasure I can share that transcends the externals of this existence and unites all kinds of people in a hope of priceless and eternal value. The most important thing I can bring with me to Africa is my experience of Jesus and the salvation He’s given me.
“One thing I’ve desired of the Lord.” It’s been ringing in my head as I go about my preparations for the trip. I’ve been whispering the prayer — “Your face, Lord, do I seek” — as I review my packing list and take care of the numerous accumulating details. Really what I am saying, is align my heart with Your heart, Lord. And help me to see my life and my world as You do.
I will not fear, I will not panic, I will not run away and hide, because I already have everything I need.