One Man’s Junk

…is another man’s treasure, so the adage suggests, which certainly is realized afresh when one holds a garage sale.

We have been doing some badly needed de-cluttering in our house, and through the process, a considerable amount of stuff has been labeled no longer essential for the running of our home. Books, puzzles, games, CDs, furnishings, toys and trinkets, excess dishes, sports equipment and old electronics and even some stuff still unopened in its original packaging – eventually my workshop became virtually impassable because of the load of junk waiting to be disposed of via the garage sale.

garage-sale-signsThere are, if you have never noticed, two kinds of garage sales. One is the kind where the sellers are out to make money. The other is where the sellers want to get rid of as much of the junk as they possibly can, and whatever pocket change they might make at the end of the day is sheer bonus. Just finding people who will pay to haul away the stuff you no longer want is the primary goal. When I hold garage sales, I definitely fall in the latter category. I price so low that often times folks give me twice what I am asking because they are embarrassed to buy something at so little. But I simply work on the premise that I have already designated the stuff and junk as of no value, so whatever I can sell saves me from having to haul it away to the thrift store.

So today being the first Saturday I’ve had free for a while or that was not a deluge of rain weather wise, I decided it was time to regain my workshop and start selling. It was a most successful day – one box of unsold stuff came back to the garage to be stored until round two garage sale which will happen once we finish off de-cluttering the downstairs “hidey-hole”. Scary things, hidey-holes, in terms of how much gets shoved back in them “just in case we might need it someday” or because it was given as a gift from a relative or friend, and though not put into use, “we just can’t throw it away.”

An interesting side note about our society’s penchant for collecting and holding onto “stuff” is that one of the biggest growth industries today is the storage unit business. We are a people who seem to believe the bumper sticker that whoever has the most toys wins. Sadly, too many of us are drowning beneath our baggage!

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, we say, but as I sat mulling over those old words in between browsers and buyers, I thought that it is not always true. Simply stated, some of the junk that I put out at my garage sale be absolutely unwanted and never treasured by anyone – if there is, as P. T. Barnum said, a sucker born every minute, I suspect I may have to wait a whole lot of hours for the purchaser of some of the items that made it out to my front lawn.

But there is another truth which contradicts the purported wisdom of the adage. Much of the junk that clutters up my life and yours is not the stuff that can be sold for a quarter or left at the thrift shop door. It’s not the stuff we can drag from the hidey-holes in our basements or the storage unit that we haven’t opened for three years and almost forgot we are still paying rent on it. The junk that belongs to each man and woman alone, the junk that clutters up and weighs weepingdown our souls, the junk that nobody else will ever buy, includes all the things we worked so hard to achieve or attain, believing they would make us happy or valued or successful, and yet proved in the end, to be worthless, empty and false idols and dreams. The junk that is piled high in our lives includes all the bitterness and anger we’ve never dealt with, all the resentments and remembered hurts and nursed grudges that we’ve packed away in the crates marked “Unforgiven”. The junk of our lives are all the mistakes we’ve never admitted to ourselves and sought to learn from; all the broken relationships we’ve never tried to heal; all the messy and ugly words spoken, shame-smearing deeds done and cruel omissions cowardly chosen. A number of so-called reality television shows document the tragic and terrible addiction to hoarding in which people fall, but in my experience, the mounds of stuff that we sometimes physically miser and tower up around us is nothing compared to the mountains of pain and shame, of guilt and fear, of hurt and unforgiveness that crush our souls and burden our spirits.

And then, I realized – there is someone who is more than ready to take away all the junk and garbage smothering our joy and binding our hearts. Jesus Christ fully and finally paid the price upon the cross so that all the junk and sin which weighs us down can be lifted up and carried away forever and forever. There is no sin he can’t forgive, no shame he won’t erase. There is no guilt that he can’t dismiss, no mess-ups in life, no mistakes, no divisions that he is unable to empower us to make right and reconcile, if only we decide to open up the hidey-holes of our soul and let him rummage around and do the cleaning in us and the cleaning for us.

Walter Wanegrin Jr. wrote a lovely story called Ragman, in which the Christ figure offers to replace the bloody, filthy rags being used as bandages by the people he encounters. Each time the man dresses a wound with a clean rag, the wound is made clean. But when the ragman takes away the dirty rag, like Isaiah’s suffering messiah, he himself begins to bear the wounds.

isaiah-53-scriptureSome writers have used the phrase, heavenly garbage man, to describe this deep, holy truth that the junk of our lives become a treasure to Jesus when we let him have them – he’s suffered for them and paid for them by his blood – so that he can bear them away from us eternally. But he can only do that for us when we cease to hoard and hide and squirrel away what is but straw and junk and the debris of our lives, and let our Savior, who treasures us, set us free.

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