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Help! I am a Hoarder

-Rosie Timmins-

A hoarding disorder can be defined as a pattern of behaviour which involves the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to dispose or discard large quantities of items that cover the living areas of a home.
Hoarding behaviour has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members. Hoarders are often conscious of their irrational behavior but their emotional attachment to their objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items.

Now i know that most of you, having read the above, are probably thinking “That’s not me”- looking up from your smartphone, as you walk to your desk to turn off your PC and flick off your two extra widescreen monitors, while double checking that your tablet & laptop are packed for tomorrow and your iwatch/ipod/kindle is fully charged- nope no excessive acquisition of items here.

Or as you open your closet to pick tomorrow’s outfit and have trouble deciding between your knee high boots, cowboy boots, ankle boots, doc martins or maybe your ugg boots – and whether or not you’re going to wear your straight black jeans, or dark blue skinny jeans, or distressed light blue boot leg jeans, guess it depends on the blouse right? Nah uh! No irrational or emotional attachment to anything in here.

“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.”

Clearly i am exaggerating the situation right? It’s not like we’ve spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on our DVD, blu-ray, playstation, X-Box, PC games and movie collections.

I mean it would be absolutely ludicrous to have so many cars parked in our driveways that it’s a constant game of musical cars every time somebody tries to leave.

Now I know what I have described is nowhere near to what is clinically considered compulsive hoarding, where homes become impossible to even move safely from room to room due to all of the accumulated stuff.

But just because you haven’t got newspapers stacked from floor to ceiling or 10,000 empty jam jars stored in your bathroom, doesn’t make you innocent of hoarding.

It’s a hard and confronting lesson and one i learned quite recently on a medical mission trip to the Philippines and is one of the reasons why I recommend every Christian, young or old, should be exposed to poverty at least once in their lives.

John Calvin once said “All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.”

I think that there are many Australians with absolutely no comprehension of how blessed they truly are and in turn, how little of the Lord’s blessing they are dispensing for the benefit of their neighbours.

In 2012 an editorial in the Pinoy Press explained why 80% of the Filipino population struggled to send their children to free public schooling.

“With around 65 million Filipinos or about 80 percent of the population trying to survive on P96 ($2) or less per day, how can a family afford the school uniforms, the transportation to and from school, the expenses for school supplies and projects, the miscellaneous expenses, and the food for the studying sibling? More than this, with the worsening unemployment problem and poverty situation, each member of the family is being expected to contribute to the family income. Most, if not all, out-of-school children are on the streets begging, selling cigarettes, candies, garlands, and assorted foodstuffs or things, or doing odd jobs.”

In Australia, a single person, with no children, on Centrelink’s unemployment Newstart allowance is given $519.20 a fortnight. I think we can all agree that the contrast is stark!

While on our medical mission trip, Pastor Doug, who led our team, while sharing with the Filipino pastors who had joined our family camp, spoke about the shame he felt when he looked at all of his “stuff” compared to the humble lives these pastor’s lived.

The further we move from consumerism the closer we move to God.

He was talking about the number of TVs in our houses. The number of cars in our driveways. Cupboards full of ‘Grandma’s china’, closets overflowing with clothes, shoes and bags. Drawers full of jewellery & makeup, designer sunglasses and watches. Tubs full of lego, boxes full of barbies, playstations 1,2,3,4, X-Boxes, game-boys and the boxes of discarded phones and gadgets that still work fine, they’re just not the latest, fastest model.

He was talking about our dragon’s hoard of stuff that we believe we cannot live without! But not only can we live without most it, we thrive spiritually without it.

The further we move from consumerism the closer we move to God. Hebrews 13:5 states “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The bible tells us that the more we give freely, the more we will receive (Proverbs 11:24) and that a generous man will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

So many of the Filipinos I met had very little, but they demonstrated a level of generosity so desperately lacking in our churches today, in not only material possessions but also a generosity of self, in both service and time for others.

In truth, the Churches we had an opportunity to work with reminded me greatly of the Church of Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

John Piper sums up the text with 3 simple statements:
Grace comes down,
Joy rises up,
Generosity flows out.

He goes on to explain:

“When poverty-stricken Macedonians beg Paul for the privilege of giving money to other poor saints, we may assume that this is what they want to do, not just ought to do, or have to do, but really long to do. It is their joy – an extension of their joy in God. To be sure, they are ‘denying themselves’ whatever pleasures or comforts they could have from the money they give away, but the joy of extending God’s grace to others is a far better reward than anything money could buy. The Macedonians have discovered the labor of Christian Hedonism: love! It is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others” (Desiring God, 104).

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in accumulating what society wants us to “need” we forget that important, fundamental truth that God will generously provide all that we will need. And we will always have everything we need and plenty left over to share with others.

When I had my hoarding slapped like a smelly wet fish in my face, my first response was a pity party. “Oh woe is me, I know I am so well off, but I don’t know how best to help these people, oh what do I do? I don’t know enough about their day to day struggles to think of an effective way to assist them.”

When the Church of Macedonia wholly surrendered themselves to God, they were able to say to Paul “We’re at your disposal. There is no way you can ask too much of us. How can we help?”

And then finally it occurred to me, I don’t need to understand the intricacies of poverty alleviation or be an expert on effective giving practices. All I have to do is ask the Lord.
“However you see fit Lord use me, all of me, any of me, just use me!”. And so he did. The opportunities to bless others just seemed to start rolling in.

When the Church of Macedonia wholly surrendered themselves to God, they were able to say to Paul “We’re at your disposal. There is no way you can ask too much of us. How can we help?”

Can you even imagine the wealth that would pour forth from our homes, our Churches if everybody approached giving like this?

So, how do we go from hoarders to unrestrained givers? Well that’s easy- God of course.

Give yourselves fully to the Lord, place all things spiritual and physical in his hands and say “Thank you Lord for your abundant blessing, all that I am and all you have given me, I give wholly unto you to do with as you will. Use me Lord, there is no way you can ask too much of me, show me how I can take these gifts and dispense them for the benefit of my neighbours.”

And he will.

We all do it- even batman

We all do it- even batman

Rosie Timmins attends Donvale Presbyterian Church and is AP’s Social Media Coordinator.

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