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Things That Last

April 24, 2011

By: Carole Hicks (April 2011)

Today I was washing my cast iron skillet, and I was reminded of how long I have had that treasured kitchen utensil.  I use it often … it’s not like it’s been tucked away in the cabinet. As a “girl raised in the south” (GRITS), I’ve fried many a chicken breast, squash, and okra and stirred up some mighty good sausage gravy in this dear old friend.  This cast iron skillet was given to me as a wedding gift about thirty years ago.

This weekend, I also did several loads of laundry and washed a quilt that I also received as a wedding gift.  This old quilt is now tattered and torn. In all honesty, the maker of this quilt did not do the best stitching job and it started to come undone much sooner than expected.  So, after a while, it was too tattered to use and I have kept it packed away in a chest for the better part of those three decades.  While quilts are often considered great treasures, this one does not rank with my skillet … and is nowhere near as useful.

I guess I was waxing a bit melancholic as well as philosophic as I performed these chores this weekend. You see, it has been my birthday weekend. I’m 48 this year … and while that’s not a celebrated milestone, as I refer to it as my “3rd Sweet 16” — it does cause me to reminisce of times gone by.  AND … due to much promotion about “Earth Day” … as well as “EASTER”  — my thoughts seem to be coming together around things that last or endure … for years … for centuries … for eternity.

Matthew 6:19 says, “”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

The irony in my “waxing” is that those two aforementioned wedding gifts, or treasures, did last much longer than the  marriage for which they were intended to celebrate and support (a disappointment that hurts me to this day).  While cast iron skillets and even tattered quilts can stand the test of time … relationships of any nature tend to be more susceptible to rust, and mold and other things that corrupt.

I have to wonder … is this why we are so prone to “invest” in things rather than people?  We do that in every aspect of our lives (home, work, church, “relationships”) … I am afraid that I do — and for this I am deeply convicted.

I also came upon another tidbit of wisdom (and perspective) these past few days, while reading a book titled, “Last Child In the Woods” by Richard Louv.  Where I stand here today relishing these enduring treasures of the past, I also have a bent toward cutting edge technology that helps me learn and accomplish many new and exciting things in my life.  The perspective is that we don’t have enough balance between the two.  We live in a world of extreme-isms … where it’s all or nothing. Shirk the past, embrace the future  … or get left behind.  The saddest part is that in pressing onward, we are not accepting or acknowledging valuable, (extremely valuable) lessons from days gone by.

Personally, I feel very, convicted about things in my life that should last but don’t — as well as things that do little more than cause clutter without much use.  At the same time, I am conflicted about the “expendables” in life … the things that seem useless, tossed aside or dismissed from lack of perceivable value.  We’re bombarded night and day with advertisements and incentives to embrace the “next big or new thing” to improve our life.  What really bothers me, and the question at hand is, “Does our life really get better … or do we just get more things.”

I think this is a profound reflection of our value system.  In the Western world, (in our homes, our churches, and our businesses), there is “an almost religious zeal” for technology and new gadgets with bells and whistles.  Why who wouldn’t rather have some brand new Paula Dean Cookware over this old cast iron skillet that my Granny gave me.   And I should probably just throw away this old tattered quilt, since in reality it’s not getting much use compared to the comforter I bought last Spring.

All this got me to thinking and wondering … about how much money, time and effort are spent on things that we know from the get-go are not going to last.  We buy for convenience more than longevity. We purchase instant satisfaction, rather than putting any personal effort into an experience. And these ills have filtered over to every aspect of our lives — home, work and church.

In this age of information, we are only a few clicks away for knowing anything and everything about anyone, any place, and any object in the universe.  Remember back in the day when you hated to do book reports and research papers because it required reading and learning —- but NOW … it’s just a matter of copy and paste, and VOILA’ … your paper is basically done. (and you can move on to the next thing to entertain and occupy your mind)

The need to sort all this out, came about when I was confronted by my son’s struggle with trying to figure out “how the world was going to come to an end.”  Evidently, with current events involving disasters around the world, wars and rumors of wars, and various television specials on the Mayans and their 2012 predictions, he is quite anxious about the pending doom.

I tried to explain to him that according to Holy Scriptures, we don’t or can’t know the time, but we can trust in the Lord with all our hearts, minds, strength and soul.  I explained that throughout time there have been disasters and people predicting doom and the end of humanity … and we are still here.  He cited the recent events in Japan and other worldly occurrences, and I told him that there have always been these type of events, it’s just that now technology brings news of it on a daily (even minute by minute) basis.  Still, God wants us to trust Him … to know that He is in control, and if some tragic event takes place, as His children we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Much to my surprise, his reaction revealed to me just how dangerous and devastating this obsession with the “new” and “cutting edge” has become to our society. 

I thought that Heaven would be a comforting aspect for his anxiety … when actually, (while I know he’s just a little boy and must reconcile this for himself), he was concerned about being bored … for an eternity … in Heaven.

My heart sank. My conviction ran deeper.  And I knew then that I absolutely must come back to the basics of life and faith and … experience.  I tried to recall what my perspective of Heaven and eternity was when I was eleven-years old.  I do remember being anxious about the same things that he is now. I had grandparents who loved to sit around and ponder on “the end of times.”  It all seemed quite morbid and frightening to me.   In all honesty, I did not give much thought to eternity or preserving things in my life to last past the sunset.  I could not even begin to imagine what Heaven would be like, and had not a concept of the word eternity.  My only concern was “what will happen to me — physically.”

Some forty years later, I can see that of all the things that do last … my physical aspects are the least of these.  In fact, that old tattered quilt may last longer than my body.  This I understand and I am searching for the grace to embrace it.  I do know, and told Jack as well, that a lot of time can is wasted trying to figure out such things … trying to control such things.  This time is better spent “investing” in the present, and the preserving matters of life that will last for many years … even if we don’t.

If I should die before I wake, the truth is someone will come into my house and find some treasures. They will find a cast iron skillet and a few old tattered quilts. They will find a library of books that are both dusty and worn … and they will find some that are brand new and never been read.  There are gadgets on the counter, computer and cutting edge technologies with cords and gizmos to make them work better, and televisions in each room.  There are fat clothes and skinny clothes and shoes to match them all.

Depending upon who comes in and does the rummaging and packing … most of it will probably go to Goodwill.

The truth is … I don’t need all this stuff.  I’m quite tired of this stuff. What I really need and what I really want is only what will indeed last for an eternity.  AND THIS  … is what I hope my son will find.

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