05
Dec
19

Mine/Not Mine

Sunflower paintingAfter enduring the rigors of this move, I no longer feel quite so smugly superior to those squalling seagulls from the Finding Nemo movie.

Do you remember them? These were the seagulls that swarmed around any discarded morsel of food screaming, “MINE! MINE! MINE!” as they ferociously contended to take possession.

I clucked my tongue judgmentally and muttered, “Greedy little gophers.”

But as Joan and I began preparing to relocate our lives 651 miles to the west of Overland Park, Kansas, I found myself struggling mightily to loosen my grip on a whole lot of stuff that I thought of as MINE.

In polite company, this exercise is called downsizing. A Buddhist might call it “practicing detachment.” A cruder individual would probably just call it, “throwing a whole bunch of shit away.”

Whatever names it goes by, I found the whole undertaking to be surprisingly difficult.

  • All of those folders with notes on all the weddings I have officiated? Out with them!
  • Those boxes of cards you received and saved over the years? To the bin!
  • At least half of those shirts and hats and jeans hanging in the closet? That’s why God made Goodwill Industries!
  • That cozy fire pit that sat out there on the deck? Facebook Marketplace!
  • That whole box of toys each grandkid played with until they hit the age of five? DONATE!

It all made sense. Every single one of them – and then some – needed to go.

“But they’re MINE!” cried out the pathetic little voice inside, apparently immune to the forces of logic and economy. “I don’t want to get rid of them!”

So now, two weeks to the day after dropping anchor in this new place, I still wonder: how did that happen? I mean, how did those inanimate lumps of carbon sink their little hooks so deeply into my soul?

How did I come to attach such a mind-boggling level of significance to this… STUFF?

I suppose the easy answer is to point to the nostalgic significance attached to each possession and say that my attachment is really to the MEMORY, not necessarily to the THING that provokes the memory. And to a certain extent that is true.

But as good ol’ Job reminded us, immediately after seeing his entire world wiped out in the twinkling of an eye, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, NRSV).

The fact of the matter is, none of this stuff is mine. Not even the beautiful sunflower picture my friend Michael painted as a going-away gift to remind me of my enduring Kansas connections.

All of this is fleeting. It is all temporary. And as valuable, as important, and as comforting as it might all be, none of the STUFF I cling to actually belongs to me in the first place.

It all belongs to the one I belong to.

Which is a kind of cool thing to think about, isn’t it? I mean, the next time I forget where I decided to store something here in our new home, I can just drop to my knees, lace my fingers together and say, “So God… where did we decide to put your serving dishes again?”


2 Responses to “Mine/Not Mine”


  1. December 8, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    I read this as I sit overwhelmed in my home office, trying to grade papers while all my “stuff” is closing in on me! Of course, it’s all useful and NEEDED, and more importantly, it’s MINE! 😀


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