One time, when I was a little boy, I broke a valued piece of china that occupied a sovereign space in the home of my Scottish grandmother (this is the same grandmother who many years before had been interned in a Japanese concentration camp in Borneo). After the object broke there was a long pause of silence. And then perhaps sadness. And then she said, "Oh well, it's broken, but it doesn't matter, it's just a thing."
Just a Thing
This week the Baird family is packing up our apartment here in Camarillo, and moving to a rented house in Oxnard (15 minutes away). This morning, as I was putting kitchen plates in boxes, and making newspaper sandwiches (plate, paper, plate paper), it occurred to me that I have moved a lot in my life. Actually, in the past 14 years of our marriage, Star and I have moved a total of 12 times. Indulge me for a moment as I run through the list:
* From Princeton dorm to Michigan apartment
* From Michigan apartment to Michigan house
* From Michigan house to Texas house
* From Texas house to Red Bluff, California house
* From Red Bluff house to Paso Robles house
* From Paso Robles house to Colorado Springs rented house
* From Colorado Springs rented house to Colorado Springs owned house
* From Colorado Springs to Camarillo apartment
* From Camarillo apartment to Oxnard house
We have moved so many times that I can conjure the chemical smell of packing tape in my sleep. We have moved so many times that I have stopped memorizing zip codes, and just write them in my calendar book. We have moved so many times that we have boxes that we haven't unpacked from two previous moves. It is a literal truth that I have packed and unpacked wedding china more times than we have actually used it. But wedding china is:
Just A Thing
I have learned some deeper spiritual truths through each of these moves.
Moving or Movement, In General, Is Good For the Soul
Every time a person moves, there is a kind of spiritual inventory that takes place. As you saunter through drawers of "stuff" that haven't been sauntered through in a while, you come across old pictures, old notes, old letters, old cards. These old pictures, notes and cards have to be spiritually processed. Where was I when that picture was taken? How did I feel? how has my life changed since that moment? How have I grown? How have I remained the same? Should I save this picture? Should I throw it away? Does this thing still hold the value it once did? Am I moving on? Of course, a move is not a necessity for a personal life inventory, but it often helps.
Remember that sharks die of they are not in constant motion. Human souls tend to die as well if they are not regular moving. These moves do not have to be from house to house, but there must be movement in general. I wonder if sharks have drawers of things.
Moving Regularly Requires That One Accumulate Less "Stuff"
One of the best sermons I ever heard in my life was from Colleen Townsend Evans (the wife of Louis Evans Jr., founding pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church). Colleen's talk was entitled, "Traveling Light". In it, she talked about having to speak at a church once, and was late getting to the airport after that talk. Totally "done up" in her Sunday pearls, heals and skirt-suite, she did a skirted scissor-run through the airport. Getting to the gate just before the gate closed, the attendant told her, "The gate is now closing, too late." She said, "But I just have this one carry on, I'm ready to go." Colleen said that the gate agent said, "Go ahead, we wouldn't have allowed you on the plane if you had a big suite-case, but that is a small one, so run and get on."
Colleen then applied the "Traveling Light" image to our souls. Souls that have a lot of baggage, a lot of things, a lot of life-long accoutrements sometimes have a harder time moving into the next kingdom.
Moving Regularly Helps To Keep Ones Priorities On the Right Things
Prior to moving from Colorado to California, Star and I gave away a lot of things. The cost of moving extra furniture and boxes across the country was just not worth it. So we gave some of our best things away: pianos, furniture, paintings, patio furniture. I am not overstating the matter if I said that we gave away around $50,000 worth of things. At the time, when we gave it away, there was a part of our hearts that said, "Wow, can we do without that? That's really a nice object."
But here's the truth. I can honestly say that I haven't missed any of the things that we gave away. It isn't that the things we gave away aren't valuable, or weren't meaningful to us at the time, it's just that the absence of those things hasn't diminished our life one bit. And actually, the thought of those things in another person's life has made our lives more joyful!
Just a Thing
Just a House Full of Things
Just a Life Full of Things
Jesus said, "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are the birds?"
Now I'm off to Home Depot to get more boxes to pack up more...
All For now,