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If you’re like me, you have a lot of it.

It seems as if every nook and cranny is an invitation for me to stow papers and trinkets; even clothes sometimes. When those spaces get too full, I often find myself browsing a thrift store looking for a piece of furniture to store or display the stuff I have.

This past winter when I was having a moment, one of those when nothing I put on worked, I caught myself standing in the middle of a giant pile of clothes. It looked as if my closest had vomited every article of clothing I owned onto my bedroom floor.

That is when it hit me… No, really, the shelf that held my dress shirts broke and hit me in the head…

I had too many clothes.

For Lent, I decided to go through my closest and dresser and get rid of one article of clothing per day. I wanted to simplify my life.

So I had a hard talk with each item.

From my very first bow tie to the sweatshirt I had to have in college, each one went through the examination. I remembered when and where I bought the item or who gave it to me. Some items I needed to get rid of simply because, well, the hole under the armpit was larger than the neckline.

Ultimately, I asked the same two questions, “Do I really need this? Do I still have a use for it?”

Fifty articles of clothing were eventually purged from my closest and donated to the Clothing Closet that our church is hosting this weekend.

If I am honest with you, this was kind of a difficult task. Many of the dress shirts brought back memories. Many of my sweatshirts flooded my mind with memories of those long weekend getaways with friends. That holy pair of jeans (that ended up in the garbage and not at the Clothing Closet) reminded me of one of the best days of fishing I ever had.

But here is the deal, friends, the impulse to save, to make do, to find a use for things, can get out of hand. And the irony of saving things is that we accumulate so much stuff that we forget what’s there and end up buying duplicates.

Like three Chicago Cubs sweatshirts; five fleece button down up shirts; thirteen pairs of jeans (I am not proud of this); and 30+ neckties. I am still working on letting go of my many pairs of shoes. Especially those baseball shoes I have had for ten years…and I’ve only worn a dozen times…but one day I will coach again…and one day I might just need them…you know, to preach in?!?!

What sparked this issue for me is the realization of how much stuff I have and how much I depend on that stuff. I have a lot of books. While I read most of them, there is also a part of me that uses these books to impress people who see them.

Here’s the deal, our possessions may be precious to us; they may even have a lot of power over us. And they may even have a lot of meaning (like that black flannel shirt I have that once belonged to my late uncle. Though it is two sizes too big, I will NEVER get rid of it…).

But my favorite Cubs coffee mug, all those books, all those bow ties, all those (insert those items you have a tendency to collect) aren’t the ruach of God, the breath of God.

God gifted us with all we need and then asked us to take care of it. Part of this call means to be good stewards: use only what we need and share because with God, there is enough for everyone.

Our stuff is meant to bring us joy and life.

If it doesn’t, if it gets in the way, perhaps it is time to share it with someone else.

There is freedom in letting go.

Or as Quaker theologian Richard Foster has boldly said, “The goal of work is not to gain wealth and possessions, but to serve the common good and bring glory to God.”

To bring glory to God means to make God’s presence known.

Stuff can get in the way of this.

But stuff can also add to it.

I guess the choice is ours!

[Adam Quine, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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