I am flying today. It’s been a crazy week already, and it’s only Tuesday. I am going out of town for six weeks, and when I return, “home” will be in a different place. I’ve spent the last several days going through everything I own. Some things to be packed for the trip…some things to be packed for the move…some things to be purchased…some things to be tossed….nothing to be remain where it is…Things. Things. It’s been all about things.
I’ve not really had much of investment in things. I grew up a nomad, having lived in over thirty places and counting. My entire school years, and beyond are stored in one big plastic bin, I call my “memorabilia box.” High school yearbooks… autographs and backstage passes….photo albums….programs from plays I’ve been in…all tangled up in one plastic tote. And then closed with a lid, and stuffed in a back corner of a closet. Life…in a box.
After all of these moves, I have scaled my things down to an essential level. Several boxes of books, a modest assortment of basic furniture, clothing, a laptop, a camera, a couple of typewriters for vintage flavor…
And with each move I lose a little more of what I thought was essential. No, I don’t need those old clippings of articles I wrote for the college newspaper. It’s been a decade and I’ve got much better material. No, I don’t need that lamp. Even though I love it, it got quite banged around during the last move, and has never been the same….
Sometimes I lament my lack of things. If I admit that something needs tossing, a little bit of me hurts. It’s like I’m losing a bit of myself almost. And, I waver on the decision. But in one such cleaning session, I ran across a Scripture, I think in Jonah, that says, “Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” That hit me hard that time.
Things are nice, and yes, things can hold memories. There are certain things that I have, that I can look at, and will instantly transport me to a warm and cozy place. And, yes, we love to be surrounded by beautiful things, and things that make life easier, softer, better for us. But, when we become too attached to them, we can miss out on what God has for us now. So, as I cleaned out my things this last weekend, I worried that I was too ruthless. Would I regret not holding on to this or that? Maybe.
But, I recently heard a pastor talk about materialism. He said we actually don’t own anything. Everything we think we own is on loaner for our time here on earth. We have it for a little while we’re here, and then we must leave it behind. Most things we have to leave behind much sooner anyway. It’s common sense, of course, but I had never really thought about in that way. I don’t actually own anything. At all.
And I don’t believe that God is against us owning things. He’s just just against things owning us. When we can’t let go of things, when we spend our lives in pursuit of things, when we are so obsessed with more things that that’s all we really want…then we have a problem.
And, so I sit in the airport terminal this morning and ponder my modest collection of things. It’s not about the things. It’s about life. Living life. Giving of yourself. Loving God, and loving people. Things, are just a backdrop. Tools that make it possible. And so, if I have everything that I need to do that, then why should I cling to what are ultimately worthless idols? I would never want to forfeit what God is doing with me now…because I couldn’t let go of an old lamp.