Maybe I was imagining anxiety rising around me on Sunday when Pastor Terry described the early Christian community as if it represented some kind of norm. In that early community of saints, Spirit-led believers were so pained by the injury of any other part of the Body that they were unable to see another Christian in need. They would even sell their possessions, if they had to, in order to help each other out. “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Acts (2: 45).
Hard to admit: God owns ‘my’ stuff, I don’t
Different people find it hard to consider letting go of different things. I’m not sure what Pastor Terry thinks might happen in 21st century America, where even a progressive tax rate is considered “socialism.” For me, a big challenge would be to give up my hooked rugs for the sake of our Christian community. We own three beautiful hooked rugs that we can’t even use right now because one of our cats will pull at the loops, and I still won’t consider parting with them. It’s hard to admit that God owns our stuff, we’re just taking care of it for Him, and if He has need of it for a different purpose, He gets to reallocate it.
But then I found myself thinking about how automobiles were shared on the rural road where my mother grew up, during what New England calls “mud season.”
“Mud season” sloshes between winter and spring. The snow is mostly slush and the earth is sodden with runoff. In the 21st century, mud season is mostly an inconvenience and an architectural anomaly. It’s hard to maintain floors and carpets when every person who crosses the threshold carries their own load of fresh dirt, so at the kitchen entrance of traditionally designed New England homes, you stop in the “mud room” to change your dirty boots for thick slippers or clean shoes before you enter the main house.
Before rural roads were paved, mud season could be a considerable challenge. My mother remembers watching a sledge weighted with heavy granite being pulled by a horse team down the sticky road in front of her childhood home, in an effort to smooth the ruts before they grew into puddles the size of small ponds. The expedient would work once, twice, maybe three times. But eventually, mud season would have its way and parts of the road would become impassible.
During mud season, no one living in the country could get into town, except for the families living closest to the paved main streets. What could be done?
With no options, rural neighbors shared cars
In a time accustomed to mutual aid societies and in a place where shared poverty had made sharing the norm, the answer was obvious. Families shared their cars, bucket brigade style. The family farthest out would drive to the first impassible mudhole, leave the keys in the car, and pick up someone else’s car on the other side. So it went all the way to town and back again.
I suppose you could say that it wasn’t very possible for anyone to take advantage of anyone else, with mudpits preventing anyone from stealing most of the cars. Nonetheless, I can imagine cars sliding into ditches, getting dinged by gravel, getting stuck … And I can also imagine that it’s easier to share a well-worn car than a shiny new one, even though God is equally owner of both.
So I’m not sure where that leaves me, following our Sunday challenge. I’m still hanging onto three glorious hooked rugs. And I’m considering the idea that spiritually, we’re always living in mud season. It’s really hard to keep those rugs looking beautiful when every time you “come in from town” you bring in a load of dirt. Maybe, just maybe, helping others with their coming and going matters more than the rugs.
What do you think?