I just sold my djembe drum to a nice hippy man via craigslist. I want to play it cool here, but I felt rather teary. I remember exactly when I bought that drum–right after YWAM, influenced by all the percussionists I met in India–at the music store in downtown Portland. How I proudly carried it everywhere. How I played at churches, in small groups, with college-aged kids in a large circle on somebody’s lawn. How I loved blending in, how confident I was of the beat. I remember listening to non-mainstream worship ensembles and thinking this stuff is legit. It wasn’t polished, or perfect. It was joyous, it was a howl. The djembe to me sounded like the psalms.
I carted that drum around all my wanderings, but here is the memory I remembered tonight: I was in Portland, years later, at yet another Bible college. I was older, wiser, but still wanted to fit in. I asked the pretty worship leader, a brunette with a sharp tongue, if they ever needed a percussionist. “I play the djembe”, I said, not wanting to sound too braggy. We were in the cafe, and I had approached her. She looked me up and down, said “thanks” and “I’ll think about it”. She smiled at me, but I was already feeling like I had made the wrong move somehow. I sat in the corner to study. She talked loudly to her friends. “Oh, the djembe is so five years ago. I can’t even imagine!” I know she wanted me to hear her say it, and I did. And it was my first real sense that the world moves on ahead of you, finding God in ever more loud ways, when you just want to sit in the grass and play your drum.
I put it in my closet, and have rarely touched it since.
We are currently selling all of our possessions. We are taking what fits in a subaru wagon, and nothing else. We are committing to lives of simplicity (plus, our stuff isn’t worth the price to move it). Our stuff is overwhelming, scrounged from thrift stores, found in alleys, painted and glued and glittered (I do love me some glitter). I sold our backpacks today, remembered the months in Europe, China, Turkey. I don’t know when we will ever travel like that again. I will sell our TV, our glorious 1960s orange hide-a-bed, I will send our cantankerous cat to a friendly farm in the country (and trust me, I will sob my guts out).
I, who pride myself on not buying into all this crap, have bought a lot of crap. And it turns out that maybe we hang onto our stuff as a way to hang onto our past selves. I am having a hard time getting rid of things right now, because I am having a hard time understanding who I am. For a long time, my worth was measured by my musical ability (playing bass in a Christian punk band, folk jam sessions on the guitar, playing drums for the youth group, the djembe at the Megachurch). But that part of me is done, for now, crowded out by other more important things.
I can only take one box of books, and it is messing with me. How much of my identity I so badly want to be tied to my mind, my words. And this makes me realize how fragile all of this really is. How taking a vow of simplicity might mean a renewed vigor to be poor in spirit, not just in possessions.
But be honest, here. If you could only fill up a rusty subaru wagon, what would you take? What would you leave behind?