Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Offering Meditation - What’s In Your Garbage Bag?

What am I truly invested in? What measure do I use to determine what is really important to me? It could be the time I invest in things, or the effort that I expend toward achieving a task. Or it could be the fervor with which I discuss a subject with a friend. I get up early in the morning on Saturday to do things that I deem to be especially important.

I still find myself checking bank accounts, stock prices, and financial investments sometimes in order get an estimation of my worth in this world. Sometimes, that actually gives me a measure of comfort, though it is usually short-lived.

Recently, I asked my family to do something a little different. I hung a clear plastic garbage bag outside the door in the garage and asked them to put every receipt for every purchase we made in the bag, until I was ready to use the bag for something special. To tell the truth, I knew that I would have an offering meditation to do at church in the future, and I had an idea that saving these receipts would provide some interesting subject matter. For about three months, we saved our receipts faithfully until I pulled the bag off the wall one day.

There was a time when filling that bag with receipts would have made me a little proud. It was a measure of what I could afford, which was a proxy for some degree of financial status. But now, it made me a little sad to see that my efforts to earn a paycheck and provide for my family in a financial way could be represented by a garbage bag full of bits of paper.

When we opened the bag, I had the family just take some time to go through the receipts and recall some of the things that we thought were important at the time. Curiously, almost all of the items listed in the bag are consumable – those things are now gone. I also noticed that our family eats quite a lot of cheese.

Getting older has woken me to the fact that there is much more to the life than the present moment. I think having children was the start of that journey. Tucking them in at night and watching them sleep when they were little, and wondering what they would become and how I could contribute to that outcome has a sobering effect. It makes it easier to invest in things other than bank accounts or retirement funds. Things like education, choosing friends, or getting involved in people’s lives take on new meaning when an eternal perspective is involved.

Matthew 6:19-21 says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Heaven is what lasts, and it’s where I want to spend eternity with my wife, my children, and everyone else whom the Lord deems to enter there. Bringing that eternal point-of-view in focus against the window-dressing of this world has a life-changing effect.

After all, when you get to the end of your days, do you really want to be the one to say, “Hey, I had the biggest garbage bag?”