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
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
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]