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More Stuff.

By Trish Patrick in Sermons

Jesus said 'where your treasure is there is your heart also'; the gift of letting go can be the creation of not only physical space but a lightness of spirit

A few weeks ago Marcia, in her reflective connections article, talked about the 'stuff' we collect as we journey through life. This resonated strongly for me because, over the past weeks, we too have tried to cull our 'stuff' accumulated over fifty years of married bliss. This exercise evoked memories both good and not so good, but all part of the stuff of life. Sorting can prove tricky. Some stuff can be jettisoned quite painlessly, some handed over to family, but there's some stuff that, for one reason or another, is problematic and goes into the too hard basket to be decided later. Our 'too hard' basket is becoming concerningly full! I am in awe of people who somehow manage to
travel lightly through life, systematically shedding unneeded stuff as they go. I admire their discipline and lack of attachment to things. Consequently their lives seem tidy, organised and free of clutter. An enviable state.
Watching the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, gives one pause. Peoples lives, livlihoods, and homes trashed. Gone. The people, dazed and in shock try to grasp their new grim reality, survey what is left of their lives, which is nothing. How would I respond in that situation? I suspect the answer is, not very well. I would find it devastating and paralysing.
For the survivors, where to begin? Even the most basic requirements of life gone. It's brutal.
My culling exercise is suddenly put into perspective. I have a choice about what to keep, what to throw out, when to get rid of it. What a luxury! And what's more, I still have family, friends and community around to lend a hand if need be.
Marcia's point about carrying the memories within us, memories of time and place, of people and events, are so relevant. Of course its important to have photos and memorabilia but they are ephemeral and can be lost in the blink of an eye. Cultures who have the richness of oral tradition (as well as memorabilia) have been able to pass on their treasures through story, symbolism and ritual. Maybe we need to be more intentional about doing likewise.
Then there are people whose vocation in life is to disavow worldly possessions.
They choose to forfeit earthly treasures for a life of simplicity, uncluttered by the stuff of life. Attachment to things, people and places are quietly set aside, their lives examples of service and prayer. I admire these people. I commented to David how I would be hopelessly unable to give up stuff and become a 'religious'. He wryly mused aloud that there could be a few reasons I might not be suitable.
Perhaps there is a middle way. A way where we can have a balance in our lives of possessions and attachments but a preparedness to 'let go' more readily. However, the hook in the tail of this idea is the thought that 'I just might need that sometime', and the item is carefully stashed away 'just in case'.
Or if I appear with yet another scarf, my dearly beloved, with a grin will say ' you really needed one of those!
Or, maybe something can be re-purposed.
I sometimes think that, if God has eyes, there would be much divine eye rolling.
In Mark 10: 23-24 Jesus is quoted as saying...'It is difficult for those who have treasure to enter the kingdom of heaven'.
For me, the kingdom of heaven is a different way of being in the world where we live following the teachings of Jesus (rather than just the 'hereafter'). Jesus appreciates how difficult it is for us to live this way, yet it is something to aim for, a work in progress. He even suggests it’s pretty impossible for mere mortals (v27) but it’s something we can strive to achieve by keeping priorities in check and I suspect our attitude to stuff is of greater relevance, rather than the stuff itself. Our relationship with things is a complicated matter. A trivial example... many years ago I recall how sad and upset I was when I discovered that baby clothes I had lovingly packed away in a very large suitcase had gone irretrievably mouldy and had to be thrown out. It felt like I was throwing out our babies! How irrational is that! If this hadn't happened, no doubt that very large suitcase would have accompanied us to this day, moved from house to house along with all our other stuff. Its ultimate fate would no doubt have been the same only half a century later. The meaning of our treasure may carry huge significance to us, but not so much to others.
Jesus said 'where your treasure is there is your heart also'.
Macrina Wiederkehr in her book 'Seasons of the Heart' talks about the 'sacrament of letting go'.
Perhaps we 'let our clutter or stuff hide the wounds we accumulate in life, rather than befriending the scars (Macrina Wiederkehr),' relying on stuff to anaesthetise emotional pain and provide a false sense of security.
'Letting go' is challenging. But the gift of letting go can be the creation of not only physical space and a lightness of spirit, but the epiphany of realising there is also treasure waiting to be discovered in the scars revealed. Scars that carry the story of our lives, the pain and heartache, our unfinished symphonies, regrets and sorrows, yet all the while being mindful that 'nothing is lost on the breath of God'. (C Gibson.)
Trish Patrick