About a year ago, I took a spiritual formation class that functioned more like a spiritual formation group. Each week we had 4-5 homework assignments engaging different spiritual practices. About halfway through the class, I started looking forward to the assignments - enough of the assignments had "worked" for me by that point. I looked forward to leaning in, experiencing more wholeness and peace, and becoming more aware of God's voice.
"This week, give away something valuable," I remember my face flushing red when I heard my professor say those words. Before I could consciously process what he had said, my purple lululemon jacket came to mind.
It was my favorite article of clothing, and still relatively new. At the time, I hardly had a clothing budget and only bought this jacket because someone gave me a gift card for my birthday. It was warm; I loved the color and felt good in it. It was like a treasure - I'd never think of giving it away.
I wrestled with the thought of giving away the jacket for a week. I rationalized, convinced myself that the guilt I felt each day I held onto it was the voice of toxic religiosity I often attribute to God. The dialogue in my inner world sounded like, "Why would God ask me to give this away? He wouldn't do that - it makes me happy. I've given so much to him, my whole life and vocation. And I already live so simply. God, in his grace and mercy, will still love me if I give something else away. I'm just overthinking this."
As convincing as my logic was, I still didn't feel at peace about keeping the jacket. Everything else I could think of to give away felt too easy. I tried to calm my inner world, but something kept bringing the jacket up, poking and probing like a little dog biting my ankle. The desire to keep the jacket and the longing to give it away pulled at the seams of my soul. I told a couple of friends, looking for accountability or solidarity, but then felt disappointed when they didn't tell me I was being silly and should just keep it. I even remember looking online, analyzing my finances to see if I could somehow buy another in the near future should I find the courage to give it away.
After mulling over the thought of giving it away for longer than a week (I didn't complete this assignment on time), pain, insecurities, and childhood wounds started rising to the surface. My inner turmoil was about more than just a jacket; the process tugged at my identity, sense of belonging, and security. Would I ever feel so secure in God's love that I wouldn't mind dressing like a fool? Would the insecurities from my parents' divorce and the financial stress my family experienced for much of my childhood and adolescence ever fade away? Could I really trust God to provide for my needs?
Eventually, I sensed God coming to me with grace, allowing me to give something else away. Interestingly, I felt sad - I couldn't trust God to the degree that I wanted and, in some strange way, was bound to this jacket - it meant more to me than I wanted it to.
A few days later, after loading bags of frozen blueberries in my car, I noticed a large bright purple stain on the front of my jacket - the blueberries had leaked all over me. Clarity broke through the tension in my heart. How had I become so attached to a jacket?
The stain eventually came out, but it didn't make much difference. I may have worn the jacket once or twice more.