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Monday, December 12, 2016

Stuff by David Roper

Things upon the mantle;
Things on every shelf;
Things that others gave me;
Things I gave myself;
Things I’ve stored in boxes,
That don’t mean much anymore—
Old magazines and memories,
Behind the attic door.
—Scott Wesley Brown
Shel Silverstein, a writer of children’s verses, penned a whimsical poem he entitled, “Hector the Collector.” In it he describes the objects Hector accumulated over the years and how he “loved these things with all his soul, loved them more than shining diamonds, loved them more than glistenin’ gold.” Then Hector called to all the people, “Come and share my treasure trunk.” They, “came and looked…and called it junk.”

Eighty–three years of living have resulted in a plethora of junk in our house. Recently, I determined to get rid of most of it—throw it out or give it away. I found I have at least two of everything and in some cases three or more: “Why does anybody need six fly rods,” I asked myself, “particularly since I can’t fish any more.” And so I began to sort through my equipment, clean out closets and storage bins. I was amazed at the shear amount of “stuff,” most of which I never look at, much less use.

So it is. The things we’ve treasured in the past becomes just so much rubbish. Despite what we’re being told these days, the best things in life aren’t things.

Yet we assiduously seek more, for we’ve been deceived into believing that acquisition and accumulation will lead to happiness. We gather, harbor and store things until we have no place to put them. Yet we must have more.

There’s no end to our acquisition, a phenomenon a friend of mine calls The Barbie Doll Law: “Accessories once considered optional become mandatory, creating needs and wants never thought of before.” Things that used to be add-ons become must–haves—a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities. Yet though we buy (and buy and buy) enough is never enough. We must have one more gadget, or its upgrade, a compulsion that has no cure on earth.

But there is healing from above. The happiness we seek and lose in all our getting is found in intimacy with God. “Oh the happiness of those you bring near. They will be satisfied with good things in your house” (Psalm 65:4). In God’s presence we find the deep satisfaction and joy we sought in acquisition. We can be deeply appreciative of the things money can buy, but content to do without them.

To be honest, I don't find it easy to maintain that perspective. Especially in this season. All day long voices urge me to buy this, spend for that, borrow against tomorrow so I can have what I want today. Generous incentives, rebates, sales packages, low or no interest rates, and other good deals lure me on, creating wants in me that I never imagined. The belief that “just one more thing” will make me happy returns, lingers, and whispers. Oh, that I would hear that other still, small voice calling, “Here I am”; that I would look to God for all I need and abide with him alone.

But I know my proclivities. If there is to be any healing God must take the initiative; he must put forth extraordinary effort to get my attention and draw me into his presence. So I pray with David, that great man of prayer, “Draw me near that I may dwell with you.” Then, and only then, I shall not want!

David Roper
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