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FIRST-PERSON: There’s more to life than stuff

MELISSA, Texas (BP)–After spending one evening cleaning out a room at a home for the elderly (we call them “assisted-living quarters” in our world of political correctness), I felt obliged to ask God, “What is life anyway?” Amidst all the boxes, newspapers, walkers and wheelchairs, one entire life’s worth of thoughts, experiences, hopes, dreams and fears were contained in a 10-by-12-foot room.

It seemed so sad, so final, and so cheap. Eighty-three years on this earth, 83 years of happiness and sadness, 83 years of pain and joy. Now, all that she leaves behind is 83 years’ worth of stuff. In consecutive breaths we celebrate a “long, full life” and then we start planning the garage sale.

Is that really all that life boils down to? Stuff? Whether it’s worth a billion dollars or a hundred dollars, isn’t it still just stuff? Will my life or my work or my world leave anything behind besides just stuff?

Jesus, a man who lived a short life and never really owned much stuff, asked, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the world, yet forfeits his soul?” God’s Son understood that life is more than stuff, that making a good living does not always mean making a good life, and that a full house does not always correspond to a full life.

As I observed another’s life come to an end, I was forced to ask questions about my own life. When that final bell rings, when my time here is over, will I have worked so much to earn so much to buy so much that my legacy will be that I made some other young soul clean out all my stuff? When people remember me, when my epitaph is read, will they say, “Man, that guy sure had a lot of good stuff”? Or, dear God, might they say, “Wow, that guy really did believe in his Lord. He really did love his wife.”

As we cleaned out that lady’s room, we packed boxes of books and clothes and photographs and shoes and lamps–lots of stuff. But, beyond all the stuff, underneath all the dust, there lived a person, a person with a life. In that room, there existed a life full of memories, a life full of questions. What were the people thinking in this photo? How many family Thanksgiving dinners were eaten on these dishes? Where did they buy this? Who would have ever worn that? Where can I get one of these?

And one more question: What is life anyway? Is life made of memories, of dreams, of friendships, of acts of service and kind words? Is life about prayers prayed, people helped and hugs shared? Or, is life made up of trying to get more stuff? Must I work harder to attain that next station in life, just so I can get better stuff? After all, when the rich man dies or when the poor man dies, what do they leave behind? Stuff.

What kind of stuff do you want to leave behind?

–Stuff that can warm a heart or stuff that can fill a garage?

–Stuff that will be shared by friends or sold by street vendors?

–Stuff that will brighten a day or darken a closet?

–Stuff that can lift people up or weigh them down?

The bumper sticker says, “He who dies with the most stuff wins.” The Bible says, “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” Whom do you want to believe? Whom do you want to trust? Those who seek stuff or the One who created those who seek stuff?

God, by your grace, may what I leave behind truly lead others to follow you as they seek to make a life amidst all the stuff.
Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas, is a speaker, columnist, author of “Lessons for the Journey” (America House, 2001), and director of Faith Walk Ministries (www.faithwalkministries.com).

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  • Trey Graham