“If you could only keep three things, what would they be? Don't include basic food, clothing, or personal care items.” Then our Sunday school teacher gave us a few minutes to think and make our list.
My first thought? Contact lenses. I had just purchased my first pair with hard-earned money from babysitting and other jobs a ninth grader could find.
Then pride trampled on honesty. For my second item I wrote, ‘Bible,’ though I had no interest in the Bible at that time. And the third item? I think it was a transistor radio.
The purpose of that exercise may have been to make us aware of what we valued, what we thought we couldn’t live without, what we loved.
When a baby enters this world, he brings nothing into it. He has no attachments to material possessions. But it doesn’t take long, even for a little one, to value the things that bring him or her pleasure.
When we leave this world, we take nothing out. If the dying one is suffering or unaware, material possessions may have no meaning once again.
Today, I am living in the in-between. But both ends are fresh in my mind.
My husband and I recently visited our then month-old grand-daughter, seemingly unattached to the worldly goods purchased on her behalf.
Last week my husband and I cleared out his father’s room at an assisted living facility. Three years earlier, we had emptied my parents-in-law’s 1,600 square foot house (already a downsized home). Sorting through their treasures and their tools, we severed their attachment to almost everything they owned. A few boxes and a few clothes remained.
Now, even those few items were useless to them.
Two months ago, my mother-in-law passed away. Her husband, in his last days, has now moved to a hospice facility.
In my present stage, in between birth and death, I look around our home. Furniture--some older, some nicer Amish-built sets—populate the rooms, Corelle dishware and cookware line kitchen cupboards, clothing packs closets, and stacks of boxes and things needing boxes form mountains in the basement. When I am gone, these things will likely not mean anything to anyone. They will be sold, given away, or trashed.
Suddenly, all my stuff seems more temporal to me than it once did.
When I buy an apple, I know it's temporal. But when I buy an end table I expect to use it the rest of my life. After that, I would hope, someone else could use it. Perhaps someone would, but the value will be diminished. It will be given away or sold at an auction for a fraction of its cost, just as my parents-in-law’s furniture was sold.
Today, if I made a list of three, I would want to be wiser (and more honest!). I would want to include things that help me reach beyond the temporal to the eternal.
One of my most valued possessions is my iPod Touch. Not for the gadget itself, but for how it helps my soul connect to God. Daily, I use the Bible app to listen to scripture for review of verses I have memorized. I say the verses with the audio or just ahead of it. Without it, my ability to memorize and review scripture would be diminished. Without it, my spiritual growth would be less.
Think about making a list of three for yourself. What would you write? What do you value? Does it have eternal significance?