Monday, October 12, 2015

What Defines Us?

You know that verse where Jesus tells us to fill our houses and garages and outbuildings to the brim with stuff?

Yeah, there isn’t a verse like that.

The Bible does talk about how we are not to be defined by our stuff.

What I can tell you is this; I've had a year that's been full of messing with stuff and how I've allowed it to define me.

In January we were in full swing gathering all the stuff for a wedding. Once we found it all and paid for it, we had to store it, move it, set it up and take it down. Again we moved it, stored it, loaned it and ultimately gave it away. People who do that sort of thing for a living, do not get paid enough.

We've also had the daily maintaining of our regular stuff too.

All the dusting, cleaning, washing, mowing, trimming, sorting, filing, stacking, reorganizing and re-prioritizing of it. 

I wrote a little about the stuff I was storing up here.

We’ve been hauling it to the various thrift centers by the car loads and even trailers full. And this last weekend, as crazy would have it, we actually took part in a garage sale and sold some stuff, swapped some stuff with the others there and gave some more stuff away.

We have stuff-sorting-mantras such as; “Don’t look back,” and, “Use it or lose it,” and my favorite, “Be brave and just. let. it. go......”

We ask our stuff questions, such as; “Do you have a home and a job in our home?” and, “Do you add life to our life?” and, “What will our children think when they find this when we’re gone?”

Okay… so maybe we really won’t care when we're gone. We just want space to live a better life now.

I actually heard myself say it to someone recently. “I’m not super emotionally attached to stuff.”

Even though I spoke those words with sincerity, and there is a degree of truth, the reality is I do have a comfortably large home that doesn’t have a single empty closet. There is also an attached two car garage that barely fits two cars.

So, I like to think that I’m not attached to stuff, but my life seems to prove otherwise.

As life would happen to happen ––the past two months have been dialed in like a macro lens, on stuff.

There has been the sorting and the sifting and the selling of a lifetime of accumulated possessions.

My parents lived over fifty-seven years at a single address. That is notable by itself. I think everyone should have to pack up all their stuff and move at least once every ten years, so we can see what has been accumulated. But that is another post for another day.

Their stuff, took the collecting of stuff to a new level. If one cool thing was good, than having twelve of that one thing would be better. It was so organized, that it took us by surprise how much stuff we were really dealing with.

All their stuff took us on a roller-coaster ride of unexpected emotions. 

To unpack boxes with items, tucked in newspaper, dating back forty years was not uncommon. Like unearthing fragments of the past, we handled each item. It was peeling back the layers of two lives lived. A bit like unlocking some of the hidden chambers of their hearts. As if the stuff held secrets that had been sealed for years.

We found ourselves astonished, to be using words like, "remember when....." And who could have known the flood of memories a single dish or tablecloth could awaken.

It was like a time-machine that ushered us to our places around that table, in this home, where we passed the meat and mashed potatoes, and laughed and weathered many storms of life ––together.

Maybe that's a little bit of why stuff can be hard to part with; we're afraid we'll forget.

We had too may moments we couldn't mask the tears. It is the reality that people don't live forever.

It is knowing that our mom taught us so much, but she didn't teach us what to do when she was gone.

So there we were, spending hours and days sifting though stuff. She had saved things her mom made. Things that we made. Things that without her, we will never know their story.

It's true what they say; how stuff can mask our need.

It’s not that stuff, in and of itself is the problem. We need certain things. We can use our stuff and our lives to impact others. It’s when money, possessions, status, entertainment, distractions and earthly treasures get the greater part of our attention, time and energy ––that’s when Jesus says, we've got a big problem!

It’s not about, NOT having stuff. It is about, not allowing stuff to have us.

The things of earth do not last.


EVERYTHING.... is subject to fade, deteriorate or someday be destroyed.

Water, air, and time will take its toll. Thieves can break in and take it. The things of this earth have no permanence and we cannot take them with us. We just can't.

I know a man whose personal mantra is this; "The person who dies with the most stuff wins."

That may sound amusing, but it's not true.

The person who dies with the most stuff, is gone and his stuff will be sorted though and someone else will have to deal with it.

We all leave this earth with the same thing we arrived with; Our souls.

What happens after this life is what we should really be talking about.

The Lord who spoke stars and planets into space, also made a space inside our souls. And that space can only be truly filled with His Spirit.

But we humans.... we spend our lives trying to fill that space with food, positions and possessions.

We think because we are in the world, that this world is all there is.

The problem is of course, that we are earth-dwellers.

And since earth is what we see, we get the idea that this is all there is.

The things around us seem tangible, but they are temporal.

So how can we define our lives, if it isn't with the stuff we have, or the places we live, or the degree we have attained or the trips we take?

All those things can be good. They can be enjoyed, especially when we use them to bring glory to God.

When I began to allow Jesus to define me, this world and all the stuff, good and bad, took on a different meaning.

I became grateful for what I had. I found a new ability to love people who are difficult to love. I wanted to pray for people and believe God for great and impossible things that money cannot buy.

Faith has given me new hope and heavenly perspective.

There is the American dream, which often involves hard work so we can have more stuff. This can cause us to miss the God-centered dream and the plans He has for us. Plans that will impact heaven and earth for all of eternity.

As long as we walk this planet there will be a pull toward the things this world has to offer.

This year of being schooled in stuff, has made me realize how much of it there is in my life. And that if I am not to be defined by what we own or do, than I am to be defined by something else. Or in this case, Someone else. 

My life verse is Luke 10:27. Where Jesus says; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."

We cannot love the Lord and others as we should if we are consumed with the stuff of this earth. 

The shuffling and maintaining of our own stuff, coupled with the passing of my mom, the frailness of my father and the sale of their possessions gathered over an entire lifetime, have renewed a fire in my heart to use my life and resources for eternity. 

How about you?

What defines your life?

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© Rhonda Quaney