Guest Post from Ryan
I was leaving for a trip with my church to visit some of our missionaries in Italy. A few days beforehand, I realized that my roommates, all college or seminary students, would be out of town due to the coincidence of spring break. The house would stand empty for about nine days.To most people this would present no quandary; they would simply lock their doors, possibly plugging in a few of those timers that turn the lights on and off in the evening to create the illusion of occupation, make sure someone stopped by to feed the cat and take in the mail, and depart.
I did ask a friend to take care of my cat, but I didn’t do any of those other things. I had recently decided to stop locking my doors, and I didn’t want to derail the progress I had made in learning to trust that God would take care of my stuff (or not).
I grew up in Dayton, and when you live in a city you lock your doors. The muscle memory for tapping the lock on the car door doesn’t even connect to the brain—it bypasses straight to the muscles in your legs. As soon as your feet hit the pavement your hand locks the door; you have no actual control over this process. Despite my generally trusting nature, urban life had conditioned me into security paranoia.
But I went to college in a small, semi-rural city of only 40,000 with comparatively miniscule crime rates, and I bought a house there after graduation. The house came with a wonderful owner-convenience feature: you could open the locked side door with a screwdriver. The first time I forgot my keys and had to pop the door open with my pocketknife, I realized the futility of continuing to lock the house and began leaving it unsecured all the time.
My pastor had recently preached about faith in God as opposed to self-reliance, and it occurred to me that I had already started on the path to trusting God with the security of my possessions. I could take the baby step of leaving all my doors unlocked—not as great a risk in Warsaw, IN as in a metro area—and cultivate the mentality that if God wanted me to retain ownership of my stuff he would do that with or without the assistance of a latch.
The first time I left my laptop in my unlocked car while I went into Walmart, I definitely felt nervous, but I reminded myself that if God decided I shouldn’t have that computer a lock wasn’t going to stop anyone from stealing it. I went inside, resisting the urge to at least hide the computer under the front seat, and when I returned it was still there. I never looked back.
Over the next year I shed nearly all my worries about the fate of my earthly possessions. Leaving the car unlocked became routine procedure rather than an act of the will. My roommates never seemed to mind the house being open; every time I welcomed a new resident I offered to start locking the door again, but no one ever took me up on that offer. Our friends grew accustomed to finding the house unlocked and even began walking straight in without knocking. I enjoyed the family atmosphere this practice created, and nothing boosted my day like hearing the kitchen door open and looking up to see that a friend was paying me a spontaneous visit, or coming home to find an impromptu gathering already underway without me.
Now, I am not suggesting that God wants us all to stop locking our doors. I believe he gave humans the ingenuity to invent locks, and I also believe that “trusting God” does not excuse foolishness. The reasonable precaution of locking your house or car does not necessarily indicate an unspiritual self-reliance any more than going to the doctor when you get sick. And even though a comparative stranger who heard about my experiment accused me of “testing the Lord,” I wasn’t trying to put God on the spot. If I had come home from Italy to find my TV missing I would not have cursed God but only reminded myself that he was the one in charge of my things.
I will admit that as I was leaving that week I felt a pang of anxiety. Would my house be intact when I returned? What if God really wanted me to do the sensible thing by locking it up? He might not be all that eager to protect my stuff if I was going to act like a dummy. As I stood in the driveway, suitcase in hand, I stared at the doorknob and wondered if I should just open up the door again and give that lock a little twist.
Fortunately for my Friends-watching habit, my TV was still there when I returned, and so was the rest of my stuff. Perhaps God was actively taking care of my finances by protecting my belongings, or maybe it just happened that no burglars were in the neighborhood that week. I went ahead and said a short prayer of thanks to God anyway.