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Do the things we own own us?

Moving house is always a great time for a clean-out. I have moved frequently through my life and so had many opportunities for a clean-out. Nevertheless, it is always amazing how much stuff we have amassed in a relatively short span of time. As I go through the belongings I always weigh up whether we might use an item in future or whether it might just use up space. I consider its current condition and wonder whether it might not be better to buy something new instead. Sometimes there are memories attached to our possessions, and it is precious to hang on to those.

In the case of books I nearly always can think of a future occasion when I might want to consult them. And I would never throw away the books that were once in the library of my great-great-grandfather, many of which I have inherited. But even books occasionally are victims of the clean-out.
Sometimes, it’s just too hard to make the decision and we pack items that— if we are honest—we will probably never use again. That’s why there’s usually a follow-up clean-out once we settle in a new house.

I am always amazed how much the things we possess define our lives. Each of them represents a decision to obtain something or a gift made to us. As such they indeed reflect something of our lives. But they can never represent the fullness of our lives. Even our photos are not as valuable as the experiences we’ve had. Even our letters are not as important as the people we’ve encountered. Even our prayer journal, valuable as it might be, is not as important as the actual prayers.

Whenever I have visited people in rest homes, I am always amazed how they have managed to sort out their possessions to the very essential. There are a few precious memories, but not much more. They have already experienced what it means to let go. I think we sometimes need to be reminded of that throughout our lives. For then we can also focus on what is really important.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21).

Blessings,
Tim