I’m on the road for the next few weeks, and a very scary thing is about to happen at my house. Within 24 hours, my mother-in-law will get off a plane to begin a visit at our home. (No, that’s not the scary thing. She’s a wonderderful, wonderful woman. Hello, Roianna.) No, the scary part is that my wife and my mother-in-law will be together…conducting a garage sale!
I’m getting a facial tick just thinking about it. You see, my wife can run a decent garage sale, but she doesn’t hold a candle to her mother. Roianna is a serious garage-saler. She does research. She’s got years of experience. She knows how to promote and how to prep and how to price. She’s the complete package.
“So what?” you say. “What’s the big deal?”
The big deal is that I’m a pack rat. “Rat de paquet” in French. “Ratto del pachetto” in Italian. (Babblefish doesn’t do Latin.) I love to collect things – usually things that have to do with teaching kids. I’m good at it. I’ve got several years’ worth of stuff neatly (by my standards) organized in my office and garage.
Candidly, you would consider much of it junk – coffee can lids, shower caps from hotels, old CDs we don’t play anymore, used syrup bottles from Cracker Barrell… I know it’s junk, but it can be magic junk if you come up with just the right lesson for it! This stuff is hugely important to me. I’ll go so far to say that it’s all blessed by God. He knows its true potential.
It would be okay if I could trust my wife to be alone with my stuff, but this is not one of those cute idiosyncracies she loves about me. No, my stuff is a burr under her saddle. Probably because I make us pack it all up and take it to Texas each year in twelve giant tubs that are so heavy that they make the minivan do “a wheelie” (I dispute this claim) all 800 miles to her parents’ house so that I can teach a summer camp. She was so upset last year that I almost went to Texas by myself, but I finally convinced her that I needed both of us in the front seats to keep the wheels on the ground.
And my wife can do passive-aggressive. Better than her mom can garage-sale. (Probably even better after reading the last sentence of the previous paragraph.) She’s good. I left the house with a clear commitment from her about what should be sold and what shouldn’t, but we both knew. We knew the commitment was ceremony. She’s in charge. I’m not there to protect my treasures, and her mom can sell anything. Even the used syrup bottles. For more money than we paid for breakfast that day.
I’m a pack rat, and I’ve left my home for two weeks in the hands of a world-class, mercenary garage-saler and a wife itching to reduce inventory. It’s all over! I’ll have nothing left!
And you know what? It’s okay. No, really. It’s going to be alright. I read something the other day that transformed the way I think about collecting stuff. In the article, it said that pack rats (the human kind) are totally focused on THIS life rather than on the life they will spend in eternity. And isn’t it true?
I once delived Meals on Wheels to a woman who wouldn’t let us come into her house, because it was piled floor-to-ceiling with old newspapers. It was a remarkable achievement. There were probably forty years of news in those columns. (I know, because some men from the church went back and, with her permission, cleaned out all the paper to prevent a fire hazard and clear the stink a bit.)
She kept the news “just in case”…just in case she needed to remember a particular story or event, just in case a neighbor asked about a certain date, just in case she wanted to work an old crossword. But honestly, all those “just in cases” were just excuses for building her cocoon. She was insulating herself from the world. Managing her collection had replaced social time with friends and neighbors. In fact, it probably scared some of them away.
I’ve been thinking. What’s the value in collecting stuff? If I’m just collecting it, it’s doing no one any good but me. If I die tomorrow, I can’t take it with me, and my family will have to figure out what to do with it. If I’m not careful, it can become an obsession that steals from the time I should be spending reaching out to others. It can be a cocoon, a safe place, a comfort zone.
I’ve decided that I’m going to become a very different type of pack rat. I’m going to keep collecting, but I’m going to change what I collect and where I keep it. Instead of collecting garbage, I’m going to start collecting works of gold, silver and costly stones (1 Corinthians 3:12). Instead of packing it away in closets and on shelves, I’m going to store it up in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).
At least that’s the plan. I want to do a wheelie all the way to heaven!