In Canada we have a counterpart to NPR called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. One day many years ago I was driving home after visiting my kids’ school. I turned on CBC and heard a great comedic monologue called “All That Stuff.” The fellow narrating it was talking about our propensity to collect. He said our homes are really just ‘big boxes’ that we put our ‘stuff’ into. It was hilarious and I have never forgotten it.
I was thinking about ‘stuff’ again the other day – I think because friends of ours, about our age, are selling their large, riverfront home. With great regret? Sorrow? No, with great joy. They can’t wait to get rid of it. Isn’t that life? Or rather, Christian life.
What we collect in early life – and that is the age to collect and nest-build, nothing wrong with it – we love to divest ourselves of in later life. ‘Stuff’ just loses its allure. As simple as that. It stops being interesting. Not completely, but very substantially.
What, oh what, do materialists do with this very natural facet of aging? Christians can lay down their attachment to objects knowing they are transitory anyway. The eternal becomes naturally more and more real, more compelling, and fills the vacuum with excitement at the approaching eternal inheritance.
But if you have lived for stuff, by intention or by default? What a death that death of desire, or at least the satisfaction of desire, must be. It is fascinating to me that men think they can get away with ungodliness. The God of heaven and earth truly catches them in their own traps.
The fragility of the material was brought home to me with great force when my mother died almost twenty years ago. She and Dad had fairly recently downsized from a home to an apartment. I had helped her sort through her things in preparation for this. And I was amazed as Mom determined she could not bring all her carefully collected mementos of European trips with her. Not even a single tourist brochure. All went into the garbage.
Then she died within two or three years of that move. My sisters and I went into her apartment and in a few hours had sorted, packed and cleared her things away. The apartment was cleaned and there was no physical trace of her ever having lived there. Or ever having lived at all, for that matter.
I remember the words of John Knox as he went out from an audience with Mary, Queen of Scots. Grieved by the worldliness of her court, “Knox addressed himself to the queen’s ladies. ‘O fair ladies,’ said he, in a vein of raillery which the queen’s frown had not been able to extinguish, ‘how pleasing were this life of yours, if it should ever abide, and then, in the end, we might pass to heaven with all this gay gear! But fie upon that knave Death that will come whether we will or no.’” (Wylie: The History of Protestantism)
Death is an amazing phenomenon.
But more amazing, of course, is Life Himself. The Pearl of Great Price. Our eternal treasure.