I’ve had an old soul from birth. Somehow, I have been acutely aware that life is but a dash between numbers. And most people live that way, dashing through life.
In the seventh grade looking through my closet I realized I was a packrat. The impressions from second grade were carefully placed in a tin among lanyards I had woven at wagon train summer camp, a paperweight filled with gold flakes from a field trip through part of California’s mining territory. Each piece felt significant, a tangible portal to my short past.
Collecting tangible things that collected dust and occupied space became lackluster when I had to house them in my already squished first apartment. And more tokens faced their demise through a series of moves. Fortunately, Ikea was trending and my new minimalistic ways were chic (a first for everything). I traded possessions for experiences and sought to accumulate as many Hallmark moments as my fading dash would allow. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Recently my husband listed an old and exhausted countryside home. The thumbprint of the Great Depression was most noticeable on the cellar shelves lined with jars of canned fruits and vegetables. A generation of youth struck hard by the fear of scarcity lived what they learned well and took it to the grave: Waste not, want not.
Though the need for more cycle hasn’t stopped since, it has changed appearances. A generation grinding through the day for basic necessities birthed a generation of hard workers who wanted to stockpile more. In this case, security was found in securities. In doing so, homes became duel income families and children were raised in facilities outside the home and in the craze, my generation faced the normalization of divorce.
When money can’t buy you love, can’t provide a safe and secure environment, it’s no wonder minimalistic life makes sense to the next generations. But our pride in remaining unattached isn’t completely pure as experience has become the hottest commodity. After all, nothing can take the place of our memories. A flood, tornado, earthquake, hurricane or fire cannot rob someone’s memories; until it happens.
Last fall my brother had an accident while mountain biking alone. How he loaded a bike, drove home and his bloody body happened to be noticed by a friendly neighbor remains a miraculous act of God. For three days his memory was nearly completely erased. Shelves of memories vanished in an instant by an unforeseen natural disaster no one can prepare for.
Just as dust collects on the cellar jars and retirements are lost in an economic crash, the accumulation of life experience is just another excuse to dash through life unscathed.
So how now shall we live?
The good intentions of diligence, to care for tomorrow cannot outweigh faith that God alone is our provider. Clearly this world cannot offer any person peace. Whatever we’re trying to accumulate this side of eternity can be lost, stolen or destroyed. What is it you are actively collecting? More photos? More Facebook friends? Another race medallion to prove your fitness? A new high score on Candy Crush?
Though we must live in this world, Jesus taught we are not part of this world.
At four my daughter’s swim teacher would hold her close in the middle of the pool. With her lisp and young voice my daughter would count to ten to slow her heartbeat. Isn’t that what we all need to do? To count to ten while we sit comfortably tight in the hands of God, hands holding us close protecting us from the waves of the world. To look up in relief that the world, our possessions and our experiences don’t depend on us.
Be wise, be vigilant, but let us not live distracted from the mighty power that holds US in his hand. Be disciplined, but not to a point of self-reliance, because we were meant to care for his creation, not re-create it. When we strike the faith balance, we find joy.