There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away. Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1, 6.
I’m a tenacious collector. You could almost say I am a kind of hoarder. If there is an empty shelf, I’ll find a way to fill it. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you that I’m better than I used to be, but if you go in my garage you will find the shelves filled with boxes of papers, mementos and whatnot that I can’t seem to find the time to get rid of. More appropriate, to re-allocate. On the massive wood shelves (that I built from scrap wood the summer we moved in here) in that garage are boxes of school papers, cuttings, drawings and so forth that I have saved for years in the hopes of one day scrapbooking them into keepsakes for my wife, myself and our kids. My mom did that for my sister and I, and it’s something I’d like to do for my family. I simply haven’t gotten around to doing them yet. Until that day comes, all that stuff sits in boxes.
My collections aren’t that valuable; if you want to meet a valuable collection hoarder, go meet my mom. The things I collect have more sentimental value than anything. Books, DVDs, the occasional quarter, penny, nickel or dime; a few guns: they really aren’t worth much in the long run but I enjoy them. What’s more, most of it is organized, some even presentably so. My dad’s old guns are in a display case on my wall (except for the Civil War musket; that’s on the wall). The coin collections are on a shelf; the DVDs are organized and available for use; ditto all the books, many of which I’ve read.
I don’t plan on moving any time soon, so it seems to me that the stuff I have is fine where it is. As I said, I enjoy it, and because it isn’t harming anyone else, I consider my collecting to be in accordance with today’s verse. There is always a time to search for new coins: I do so when they come through my hands. There is always time to keep them (so long as they don’t interfere with parking a car in the garage). There is always a good time to enjoy these things when I’m being thankful for them. My mom is fond of saying that she enjoys sitting in her house, looking at her belongings, reminiscing. I guess this means that I’m getting older because I enjoy the same thing. I enjoy looking at these things, or using them and remembering where they came from, who they came from.
In this there is no harm so long as my doing it doesn’t interfere with my relationships. When a relationship with God, my wife, my kids, even other friends is replaced by ‘things,’ well, Houston we have a problem. We should never put our things over people. Those things may disappear, but they aren’t living, animate, and they aren’t more important than those things. I pity people who don’t understand this simple truth.
The flip side of all this is that there are also times to give up and times to throw away. When we do anything that takes the place of God or interferes with living a life that can bring glory to Him, it’s time to give up or throw away. Sadly, this is the case with dysfunctional relationships as well. If we need to search for something and we legitimately can’t find it, there is no dishonor or impropriety in giving up. Think of that phrase: “giving” up. Giving is a conscious action; it is pro-active, not passive. We give our time in search of something, looking for something, gathering something. We also give of ourselves in stopping that pursuit. There is nothing ungodly in doing so. The key is to ‘give’ only what we can and should using faith as our measure. If we are holding onto belongings or the past, letting those determine things about us, we are doing something that takes us away from living in today. That’s not what God intended for us to do.
Things that detract from our relationship with God and His people aren’t good for us. They’re no better than trash. If we’d throw away trash, then maybe it is a right thing to discard things that pull us away from Him. No, this isn’t permission to use people as we would use things, simply to get what we need from them and then discard them. People aren’t things or garbage, nor should we ever construe that it’s Godly to treat them like trash. But if a relationship, a possession, or even a dream interferes with doing the right thing or doing what God is leading us to do, then it’s proper to cast it aside. Yes, it’s damn tough to do; no doubt about it. Don’t we all know what it is to think about someone long after they’re out of our lives? The best way to handle that is through prayer, praying for them and praying for wisdom & guidance in moving forward, in giving ourselves to something better.
Easy to do with things we don’t need anymore, or things that are broken. Those are usually headed for the landfill. Not so easy to do with relationships because the memories linger long after the people are gone. And it isn’t even easy to do with belongings. I need look no farther than all those boxes in my garage to remind me that it’s sometimes tough to let go. Still, I’m holding on to those keepsakes to hopefully do something better with them. I want to put them in order, cataloguing my kids life and my life in such a way that they can look back & show their kids who we were. As long as we do this with a Godly and honorable intent, I think it can be a pleasing thing for all.