I used to write my name in all my books, because they were my books and I lent them with great caution and reservation. If a book came back dog-eared, marked and for me worst of all with a bent spine because someone had folded the cover back like it was a sunday newspaper - relationships could become strained. In fact that last one still bugs me.
Then it dawned on me, that God hadn't asked me to run a library, He hadn't asked me to protect all the books, to form a collection, or to look upon my shelves with their gorgeous rows upon rows of books as a key part of my identity. 'Look how clever and well informed I am' these shelves proclaimed 'because I have all these books' (reading them being only of secondary importance).
No, God had asked me to be willing to share and not to turn away from those who want to borrow from me (Mt 5/42) and my books was the testing ground. So I stopped marking my territory by putting in labels or writing my name - my responsibility was to give, their responsibility was to return and if they didn't, then the loss was theirs not mine. Only on very few occasions has this ever become a problem for me, but it has given me the opportunity to buy and give away multiple copies of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. I stopped worrying (more or less) about the state of the books and began to open up my treasure trove and probably hundreds of people (but I definitely don't keep count) have benefited from them. That's good.
But lending my books opened up my heart to sharing and so now I don't mind sharing my car, my house, my food, my clothes (only last week a guy who has started coming to church borrowed some shoes for a court case), my films and most things really.
I have to be careful of pride and protectionism sneeking back in - it's so easy to only lend to nice people. But to be fair they're probably the worst at returning my books.
Sharing does a number of things that I can think of, there are probably more.
- It stops my stuff from owning me - they remain servant and He remains Master
- It gives me a chance to practice giving - and boy do I need the practice!
- It gives me a chance to be a blessing to others
- It gives me a chance to catch something of the Father's generosity
- It breaks the power of possessions because I know I can give them away
- It connects me to people and allows me to show love to them
- It breaks down barriers because we are connected