Written by Martin Copenhaver
"Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'" - Luke 12:13-21
My wife and I are moving from a 10-room house with an attic and basement, as bulging as chipmunk cheeks, to a four room apartment. Neck-deep in the detritus of our lives, of course we have concluded that we have too much. How did I end up with two drawers and two large bins of T-shirts? Did I really think I needed a food processor, a mini-food processor, and two blenders (including one that doesn't work for…what? Spare parts?). At least we didn't buy a storage unit, like the farmer in Jesus' parable who wanted to store all of his crops.
No wonder the current #1 New York Times Bestseller is about decluttering. We are drowning in stuff. But, as George Carlin put it, "Do you notice how everyone else's stuff is junk, but your junk is stuff?"
Some stuff is not exactly stuff, but something more. For instance: The "Best Chicken Feeder Award" given to our son at his preschool, which was a working farm. How could we possibly get rid of that? Or how about the ceramic figurine of a cardinal? I would never pick it out at a store or choose to make room for it except that my mother, who is now long gone, loved birds, and this figurine, beyond reason. Or the two RSV Bibles, identical in every way, except one was given to me in third grade and the other, after we moved across the country to another church, in fourth grade? I do not want to dispense with either one.
As Christians, people of the Incarnation, in various ways we affirm that God resides in stuff—all stuff in some way, in some stuff in particular. I don't need to be reminded of that—I experience it—as we declutter.
In confronting our stuff, help me be open to a surprise encounter with you. Amen.
Martin B. Copenhaver is the President of Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered.