“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Matthew 6:19
I remember my title from last year’s denominational devotions for Lent. It struck me because I’d had my first few experiences with others’ hoarding last year. That specific “stuckness” when someone starts needing to hold on to too many things and when no one else can understand how or why these things could be important to the hoarder. Anyone can be a hoarder. And anything can be hoarded.
I seem to be heading the opposite way as I age. I want to be less cluttered. Fewer things to care for. Less stuff to dust around. I like that the internet leaves me less need for paper and files. More room to really live.
Except for clothes — I struggle there. No “if you haven’t worn it in 6 months” rules work for me. I know too often the experience of having something I haven’t worn for years suddenly become my favorite piece of clothing that goes with everything and that I cannot wear enough. This from a man whose wardrobe is mostly rummage. (Whomever cleans out my life when I’m done– most likely Benjamin and Simon — you’re going to have too many clothes to get rid of! Just return them all to Salvation Army.)
But otherwise, the volume is all reasonable. I’m sort of curatorial even. I do have “my things.” Not many in number, but dear to me. They usually represent some one, some experience, some place or some time that had been special.
The red and brown wood carved vase from Russia or the Japanese saucer that remind me of Grandma Caine.
The brass star paperweight I got for high school graduation.
The copper bowls that Cindy gave Miriam and me for our wedding.
The earthenware bowl from St. Michael’s.
The plate one of my kids (I don’t remember which one) decorated in kindergarten with his depiction of our home at the time.
The pewter candlesticks Mercedes wanted me to have.
The purple bowl I bought for Miriam when I was with Isa at the Vineyard.
The bulb-starting tray I bought with Stephan in Hudson.
The faux leopard picture frame I found one morning walking Boo.
The wood chest from Mary Kane.
The painting of Old First by Nancy’s daughter-in-law, given to me by Alice.
Almost all the pictures on the walls also have stories attached — the trains and the F. Scott Fitzgerald stamps, the poster from Berlin and the print from Carol, the Benton still life Vinny Speranza framed for me.
Same too the books I hold on to, each one because it — when I read it, who recommended it, what it was about — some connection to something dear.
I also have a few things around just because I find them so pretty — aesthetically pleasing — that they make me happy to see them each day.
All this, and not too much stuff! Do I sound defensive if I wonder if my things ARE NOT what Jesus warned about?
I understand his teaching to challenge me that my bank account and my retirement account can’t save me. Neither are any of the other accoutrements and gadgets others might find impressive any bridge to heaven.
Instead, Jesus was worried about the material things we use to protect and separate ourselves off from others… things we want to believe, or fool ourselves… can insulate us, but end up isolating us.
Someday someone will have to figure out what to do with my stuff. Not too much of it. And none of it of great value. Most of it will probably end up at Salvation Army with the clothes.
But I think I’ll write my sons a legend– a description of why this or that mattered to their dad. Maybe they’ll smile to remember something about me they’d forgotten. Or even learn a thing or two about me they didn’t know. (But most of the stories and why they are meaningful are probably specific to me and will already be gone…)
But what if the exercise of cleaning up my life could remind them again that the people and places and times of our lives are as precious as they are fleeting. And, oh so more important than the things…
See you in church,