Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
I am reminded periodically that life is messy; it seems sometimes plans are made to be changed. Things rarely turn out the way we knew they would, and our plan B moves farther down the alphabet.
In addition to being messy, life is often cluttered, too. We accumulate stuff over time and not all of it has value.
I was reminded of this when I first came to Tooele. One of the first things I did as pastor was sort through an accumulation of stuff in the church building that was more than 30 years old. I assume that all church buildings, in one way or another, become a magnet for things that seem to have a purpose.
I remember finding a cache of about 20 empty prune juice bottles. They were the brown, one-quart glass models with lids, which of course, made them useful.
Yet, in my relatively youthful exuberance, and being the new guy, I decided to send them to the landfill. The following week one of the senior sisters at church discovered the loss. If she wasn’t angry, she was at least indignant.
It seems that someone, without an ounce of thought about the value the bottles represented as containers for leftover punch, had tossed them. The fact that prune juice was no longer sold in this type of bottle was not lost on me as I thought about shaking my head in shock and disbelief with her. I took full responsibility for not only recklessly throwing out the special bottles, but also taking responsibility for saving future left over punch.
The stuff we accumulate in our life, and by extension our spirit, may not be as obvious to us as the prune juice bottles. But to modify a phrase, “stuff happens.” I understand that in popular psychology this stuff is often referred to as “baggage.” But in my mind, stuff in your soul takes a more active part in your life than just being an additional burden to carry around: It becomes a factor in ongoing decision making.
Paul, while writing to the churches at Ephesus (4:31) said, while not making a direct reference to prune juice bottles, did say there are things that should be thrown out. Included on the list to be discarded are typical worthless soul stuff like bitterness and anger.
Paul does not assume that as a result we would be left with an empty soul; that would be as dangerous as a cluttered soul. When writing to the churches at Philippi (4:8), he gave specific directions as to the kind of things that we should focus on with our minds. Those things should be retained and organized into useable and accessible soul stuff, likes things that are true, noble and right.
Clutter accumulates with time, yet spring is a good excuse to make sure you have room for the important stuff.
Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.