Quite a while ago, one of my very best friends had to move. She and her family were downsizing from a good sized house to an apartment, and so she was getting rid of a lot of stuff. We all collect bits and pieces over the years, especially when you have three girls who have gone all their lives in that same house. Baby feet had learned to walk up and down the stairs, and those feet eventually made clay footprint impressions in Sunday school. School papers from kindergarten to senior high had been displayed on the refrigerator. So had her husband’s love poems to her.
Bits and pieces.
Something larger that she had, something that perhaps can’t be called a bit or a piece, were things that had belonged to her mom, who had passed away not long before. Presents to my friend throughout the years, things she had made, dolls she had collected. Angel had to make the heartbreaking decision of what to keep and what to throw away.
I have no idea how she did it.
I’m in the same position now. Circumstances are forcing a move to another apartment, and my family is getting rid of almost everything.
What’s the big deal? I find myself thinking. It’s just a book. It’s just a child’s stuffed toy. It can all be replaced. It’s just stuff. Right?
Three particular bits and pieces.
First, the harlequin doll. I’ve had her for most of my married life, 38 years now. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her, the maroon clown suit, the gentle porcelin hands, the sad painted face. She’s traveled with me to various places. She has seen the sorrows we have gone through and witnessed the joys. She is the only doll I haven’t been freaked out by.
Second, my wedding dress. I probably don’t even need to say anything else about that, because most women will probably know emotionally what I’m saying just when I say “my wedding dress.” So much promise, hope and joy wrapped up in that bit of satin and lace, seed pearls dotting the neckline like little tears. It’s a bit yellowed and I wonder if I really did fit into it at one time, and like the doll, I have carried it carefully from one place to the next.
Third, my dad’s black Stetson hat. It’s dusty, as perhaps any cowboy hat should be. No, my dad wasn’t a cowboy, except maybe in spirit. But he loved the hat, and he wore it well. I haven’t carried it around with me as long as the other two. Only 25 years. Since my dad’s death.
I found out how much these three things mean to me when I tried to throw them away. I say tried, because I did actually take them downstairs to the dumpster and laid them carefully, lovingly, inside. Laid them as gently as I would a child to sleep. Laid them as lovingly as I would for any burial. I spoke to each one as I did, saying goodbye to these three “things” that are so much more than just “things.” Getting rid of the harlequin–oddly she has no name–felt as though I were telling her that she wasn’t important. Getting rid of my wedding dress felt as though I were telling my husband that he wasn’t important any longer. Getting rid of my dad’s hat felt as though he had died all over again.
Bits and pieces. Life. And perhaps death.
I cried all the way back upstairs. At that point, my husband said, “Let’s not be hasty,” and we went back downstairs and retrieved the three bits and pieces and brought them back home.
They had been redeemed, these three bits and pieces that make up a life.
I suppose I could get spiritual and say that in the same way, I’ve been redeemed. That sin has us all in the dumpster, dirty and reeking with the stink of rot, until Jesus, because of love for us, comes and pulls us out, cleans us up and places us in his home.
I could. But that’s not really what this is about.
Sometimes we don’t need to get extra spiritual. We can live in the moment. We can glory in earthly things. I can enjoy the way the rising sun casts an orangish glow through my new living room window, or the way the treetops look as I sit in my breakfast nook eating eggs for breakfast. I can feel the pleasure of my muscles working as I peddle up a hill and the sheer joy of freedom and the wind whipping through my hair as I let her fly down hill.
I can enjoy the bits and pieces, the doll, the dress and the black Stetson hat.