August 22, 2008

I’m a collector

It’s not Avon bottles, stamps or the usual collector’s items, but if something interests me, I clip it, buy it, stack and file it until my space is stuffed. But lately—and I don’t know whether it’s my age, or from watching the Olympics—I’m realizing that an excess of anything unnecessary or unused slows me down.

Age says there is not enough time to use it all. I will not live long enough to write a story about every idea in my bulging filing cabinets, nor will I have time to read all the books on my shelves, never mind those on my ‘must read’ list. And despite all appearances, there is not enough room in my stomach to make every recipe that I’ve ever clipped.

Likely advancing years are making me anxious, not about dying but about using my time wisely. Everyone has a few regrets, but I don’t want frittering away my hours to be one of them.

I’m not sure watching the Olympics belongs in that frittering category, but when I’m making meals and doing dishes, I’ve noticed how all the athletes, whether swimmers, runners, rowers, or even weight lifters, enter their competition venues lean and without encumbrances. They are prepared to do their best for the homeland they represent. They seem entirely focused on the task at hand, not distracted by the other competitions across the room, nor the guy in the next line, and certainly not by carrying a bunch of baubles and other stuff.

Some of them may have taken Hebrews 12:1 to heart. It says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .”

I know that weights and sins ruin my running ability and all sorts of other abilities. When I read of the “sins which so easily ensnare,” my collections pop to mind. Among them are worry, resentment and anger. All three trap my energy and release it in ways counterproductive to running races. These obviously have to go.

However, “lay aside every weight” seems distinct from “sin that ensnares.” These weights could be collections of material goods, like my stuffed filing cabinet or my stash of quilting fabric, and I am convinced that the shelves at Bibles for Missions or the Goodwill Store look much better overflowing than mine do, but I’m also convicted by the athletes in another way. When the bell rings, they hop right to it without any weights like procrastination, fiddling and tweaking. I am seldom as ready to get started on anything, even the easy stuff.

But I can think of many ways to avoid hard work too. Reading the business section in the newspaper (after the comics, lifestyles, front pages, and city news) will do it. So will saving email that should be deleted, which is bad enough, but I can also spend hours sorting it. Or what about cleaning the clean, or color-coding my task list? Nothing ever gets checked off when I’m in one of my “I don’t feel like it” modes.

While I’ve been confessing some of my sin collections, like worrying when I should pray, or resenting and ranting when I should forgive, I also realize that some of my fiddling is sin too. I should be on my knees with that collection of tough stuff instead of rejecting God’s help by doing what I think I can handle all by myself.

Until I die, I suspect that from time to time God will remind me to take a look at my collections. He doesn’t mind all of them. I can keep the memorabilia. He just wants me to know what is worthy and what has become a weighty and hindering load, and then get rid of it.

© Elsie Montgomery


  1. Wow, Elsie. That was a wake up call for me. I feel that you and I have a lot in common. What a great comparison with the Olympic atheletes. I am learning a lot these days as I am 'being still!' Thanks for today's lesson. Blessings, Glynis

  2. I read somewhere that a person should move every two years so that they manage to clear the junk out of their lives on a regular basis. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but what you wrote, Elsie, is right on. I'm pretty good at downsizing "stuff," but I always find a way to "fritter." Thanks for the reminder.

  3. It is hard to believe that you wrote this Elsie. I always thought that you had it all together. Now I find that we have much in common.
    Growing up during the war in Holland I was taught to save everything (You might need it someday). My office is full and I have difficulty to part with some of the things. But you are so right. I am getting older and there are still things I want to do. Need to remind myself to just take it one day at the time and make the most of it. That is not always easy.


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