Are you a person of “means”? Do you have plenty of funds in your bank account, a lovely home, fancy car? Do you own all of life’s little conveniences, electronic toys, and expensive things? Truthfully, I am not a person of means. I do not own many of the things I have just mentioned. I do not have a bank account overflowing with resources and the material evidence to prove it.
That does not mean I don’t have a good life and live well, as my family is very comfortable in our middle class identity. We have a sweet home in a wonderful suburb north of Chicago, own two great cars that work fine, and have a house full of things that we are happy with. However, many of our things have a certain lived-in quality to them, from the couch that our dog loves to jump and sleep on, the rug that has a slight depression in it from our son with special needs playing on one spot too much, and various dings in the walls. Many of these are things that all families can relate to, whether you have a special-needs child or not, however there are some items that carry a certain affection for me. One of these is the table.
The table I speak of is large chest-style item that sits in the middle of our living room. It serves the dual purpose of being a functional table and a storage space for some of my son’s toys. It came from a certain retail chain that has products from a variety of cultures around the world, so it has a unique flavor to it. The table is actually wrapped in bamboo cord, which has been glued or tacked onto it in a certain decorative pattern, and so it’s very fun to look at. The bamboo cord, as it turns out, is also fairly easy to come undone, as I have learned several times in the past, when myself or my wife walked in our son who had found a loose end and decided to pull, causing it to break off and leave a long curled piece laying on the floor. Being the hyper-focused individual that I am when it comes to flaws or damage in our furniture, I almost immediately take out the super glue or silicon and begin to tack it back down, placing a variety of books on top of it to keep it in place. This time, however, was different, as my wife, who is hypersensitive to my hypersensitivity over such things, came up to me as I began to obsess, and tried to do a needed intervention.
She instantly recognized the state I was in and tried to stop me, asking me repeatedly to step away from the table, take a break and a breath, and just leave it alone. When I communicated in my increasingly frustrated tone that "No, I’m just going to finish it..." she upped it by saying in the most non-confrontational way possible, “Why don’t you go read your Bible and get grounded?” and that of course just sent me into orbit. I was trying to take care of the table that we all use and need, and you want me to go read the Bible? No way.
My wife, of course, won the battle and I went to take a break, begrudgingly taking out my Bible and half reading it while I just continued to breathe heavy. I can’t recall what I read, but I do know what I started to think: what was wrong with me, I’m flying off the handle at my beautiful child over behavior he can’t really control and over a not so great table? Where was my patience, my sense of forgiveness, my love for my family, as it all dissipated in a fraction of a second because of a piece of twine that came undone...got me to be undone.
I immediately went to the words of Jesus when He reminded us not to “store up treasures on earth” but rather focus on heaven and the glory that awaited us in the afterlife. Did I really believe those words, or was it just too convenient to forget once the threat of material loss came that I allowed myself to become someone else? What do I really value and treasure in this life, or the next for that matter, and how was I being an example for my family right then?
I went to my wife after a bit and asked her forgiveness and then my son to whom the anger was indirectly focused, and talked about how I had to remember who I was and it certainly wasn’t a guy so worried about some table, regardless of how nice or not nice it was. I also admitted that my reaction was probably the result of other stress I’ve been carrying, something parents like us can too easily experience. I needed, in that moment, to remember my son wasn’t the enemy, neither was my wife, not even the table itself, but rather my own selfishness.
The next morning I was up early for work and spent a few minutes for some much needed Bible time, and when I sat down to open it up, I stopped to look at the cover, which used to be a nice brown bound leather, now sufficiently scratched up by none other than my son who definitely enjoys digging his nails into a variety of things to help satisfy his sensory needs. As I sat with my feelings about the other day and searched myself to see how I was doing while looking at another item that was now no longer perfect, I heard the voice of Spirit whisper in my ear, “Do you care more about the outside of that book, or what’s on the inside?” The message was clear, let go of your control over your material identity, value those things, no, value those people whom are truly important to you, and build yourself a scratch free treasure in heaven above.
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