I set out to tackle a task I had put off for many years. I didn’t really want to do it at all. It was the job of cleaning out my ministry storage closet. A closet filled with boxes of memories collected over twenty years.
- Old magazines with articles I had written dating back to 1996.
- Thirty-six-inch vinyl posters of book covers beginning in 1999.
- A 3-foot lighthouse used in a teaching on motherhood.
- A treasure box of oyster shells mixed with a strand of pearls used in another teaching on what can happen with irritations that get under our skin.
- Videos of past interviews from television programs that probably don’t even exist any longer.
- A box of CDs from ten years of recording Proverbs 31 Ministries radio programs. “Hi, I’m Sharon Jaynes with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Have you ever…”
The programs played through my mind as I dumped one storage bin after another into plastic bags—pieces of my life into black drawstring Hefties. Corners of posters, magazines, cassettes, note-filled binders, and CDs poked through the plastic bags as if trying to escape.
Twenty years. Ten trash bags.
I put the bags out by the street and pondered my day’s work. You’d think I would have been happy to have cleaned out all that clutter, but something inside me ached.
“So that’s it then,” I whispered as I walked away from twenty years of accumulated memories.
The next day my heart felt just about as empty as the newly cleaned shelves…until I opened my email. A word of encouragement waited for me in my inbox. A woman told me about how something I had written had given her the courage to face another day. I won’t go into the details, but her email opened my eyes and my heart to something I already knew, but had forgotten for just a moment.
Those ten trash bags didn’t contain twenty years of ministry or memories. Why? Because memories can’t be put in a trash bag. Because people’s lives can’t be put in a trash bag.
It isn’t our accomplishments and accolades that matter in this life, but the people we impact and the lives we’ve loved.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:1-8 ESV).
And you can’t put that in a trash bag.
As you move into a new year, you might feel the urge to clean out some closets and let go of things you’ve been holding onto. If you decide to downsize, you might have to throw away some tangible reminders of times past.
But remember, things are things. Love never ends. And no one can take that away from you.
Heavenly Father, more than anything, I want to glorify Your name while here on this earth. Help me to never cling to earthly treasures, but to live open handed. Thank You for the reminder that the most important thing in this world is to love You with all my heart and to love my neighbor—those who cross my path.
What was the one thing that Paul said he did in Philippians 3:13-14? Have you ever known anyone to cling to something good such as a high school accomplishment, one mountaintop experience, or one accolade? What do you think Paul would have to say about that? How could clinging to such keep someone from moving ahead to the next thing God has for him or her? When you leave this earth, and your worldly possessions are put in trash bags, who are the lives that you have touched that will always remain?
These moments of God speaking to me in the middle of the mundane is what I call a sudden glory—when God makes his presence known. Sudden glory moments shouldn’t be rare in our lives, but daily occurrences. If you would like to learn more about how to experience God’s presence in your everyday life, then A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More is just for you. It also comes with a study guide in the back.
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