A recent news article on the value of antiques gave me pause. It reported how Jim Beam Collector’s Edition decanters, which were made from 1966 to 1986, “have not gained in value through the years.” In fact, any Collector’s Edition decanter sells today for $5 or less.
I know someone who has a living room filled with these porcelain decanters. The person is convinced that this collection "will be valuable someday.” I don't have the heart to tell them the truth.
This little news item hit me because the Lord has been pushing me these last few months to de-materialize. As I have been obedient in His request, I have spent much time commiserating with my husband regarding the stuff we’ve managed to accumulate over the years. That led to a discussion on why humans collect things in the first place. I know my reasons for obtaining possessions was that, before I was a Christian, I attached sentimentality to material things. So my kids received Beanie Babies to mark birthdays and holidays. They received “keepsake” items like music boxes and snow globes. My son, as a toddler, loved a bar of soap in the shape of an animal, so I fed that enjoyment by giving him more soaps in animal shapes until he had a collection: Not a collection of his own volition, but one fed to him by me, his mother. On and on it goes.
We feel the need to mark life with stuff. We also fill voids in life with stuff. We “kill time” by shopping for stuff. We decorate for the holidays by buying “seasonal” shower curtains, hand towels, front-porch mats, cooking mitts and candles. We have red, white and blue plates for the 4th of July and pumpkin-decorated dinnerware for Thanksgiving. We have candy cane pajamas for Christmas. We have snowflake comforters for winter and poppy printed blankets for summer. We have TVs, computers, hand-helds and cells. We have and we have and we have. And then one day, we realize that all that we have is a burden that only steals time away from family, friends and ministry.
I have come to deplore the mindset that once drove me eagerly to Kohls, Shopko and Target. The times I've had to reluctantly go into those places recently (had to find a requested red tie for my husband for a wedding) I could hardly breathe for the overwhelming memory of how, only a short time ago, I came to these places to spend time, assuage boredom, and put my trust in new clothes or towels to “lift my spirits.”
God alone has begun a new work in me. Since June 1st, my husband and I have tossed out or donated a good portion of our built-up possessions. I can’t even really remember all that I have gotten rid of. I just know that, the more I get rid of, the less burdened I become, and the closer to God’s will for my life I get. And God isn’t settling. He is pushing me harder to keep going--to get into the high places and remove some more; to get into the recesses and remove, remove, remove.
Stuff in itself is not a bad thing. Too much of it is, along with too much attachment. Once God commanded me to start letting go, I got over my initial reluctance when I saw how much easier it is to clean my house, how pleasant it is to live with empty spaces and how much time has been freed up.
God has given me an amazing gift these last six months: the gift of freedom from accumulated stuff and from wanting more stuff. I am patiently awaiting what He has in store for me with this new unburdened life. He is tearing down the storehouse of stuff, freeing my heart from its attachment to things and putting a new treasure there.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:33-34
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8