Spiritual Practice

The Assignment

Alexx Campbell, 17

Since completing the Assignment, I look a little bit harder at the things I own and how I can change my lifestyle to make more room for God. When I look back at what Mark Yaconelli, my youth group leader at the time, and I called the “Assignment,” it’s hard to single out just one thing that I’ve learned. But I do know that this simple yet demanding project has left its mark on me—and in a way I didn’t really expect.

Way to Live coverIt all started when Mark asked me to help him write a chapter about people’s relationships with their material possessions for a book he was contributing to. I agreed, and we set off on a quest to find out as much as possible about people’s relationships with their “stuff.”

The Assignment became the culmination of this quest. Mark and I had done our research; we had looked up passages in the Bible and had brainstormed, but the Assignment was the only way we could think of to put all our ideas into practice. We believed that human beings, especially Americans, had an addiction to stuff and that if people rid themselves of these materials possessions, they could become closer to God.

Mark and I decided that we would try to give away one thing that we owned for each of the 40 days of Lent—thus this practice would become our Lenten discipline, our assignment. At first I was excited; and as Ash Wednesday rolled around, I was eager to start.

However, giving away 40 things that I had accumulated and owned throughout my life was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Listening to loud music FTR TSP 109215757First of all, my friends wouldn’t take any of my stuff. They thought I was weird and a little crazy to give away so many of my things. Then, I myself started to have doubts about the project. I began to run out of things I was willing to give away. I clung to some things, like my CDs and my stereo; and I began to wonder if this discipline was really helping me to understand the nature of society’s relation to stuff. By not sincerely following the guidelines of the Assignment, wasn’t I just taking a step backward?

However, through this challenging experience, I began to learn a lot. Instead of buying things for no reason, I began to think about my purchases—whether or not they would make me happier and closer to God or if they would just distract me from my relationship with God. Noticing how I still clung to objects, I realized just how hard it was to change my lifestyle in order to become closer to God. And this realization made me want to pursue my goals even more.

I finally gave away my 40th possession sometime in December, long after the Easter deadline. Since completing the Assignment, I look a little bit harder at the things I own and how I can change my lifestyle to make more room for God. Although the Assignment was hard work, it allowed me to view my own relationships with my possessions and with God in a new light. For this reason, I encourage everyone to work on their own assignment, whether it be giving away stuff or doing something else, and to examine how they interact with God in their own lives.


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Read Matthew 19:16–22. Concentrate on the last two verses. Do you let your possessions get in the way of following Christ? Try your own version of the Assignment and make it your Lenten discipline between now and Easter.


Alexx Campbell, 17 , is from San Anselmo, California. He is co-writer of a chapter in the book Way to Live! Christian Practices for Teens, published by Upper Room Books.

—from devozine (January/February 2002). Copyright © 2001 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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