I confess I’m a yard sale junkie. On most any Saturday the signs in the neighborhood trigger those irrepressible hunter-gatherer instincts. In no time I am digging through other people’s junk looking for treasure.
It is amazing, too, what turns up, and what I convince myself I can use. Clothes, jewelry, books, CD’s, weird gadgets, ceiling fans, the occasional birthday or Christmas present even. (If you’re reading this, be assured that you have never received one of these.)
To find that great deal that no one would ever guess I bought at a yard sale is a rush. I love those moments when a girlfriend exclaims, “I love your skirt! Where did you get it?” Then I can answer matter-of-factly, “At a yard sale…for a buck.” Which typically elicits a mix of surprise and feigned envy.
Of course there are those times when even a yard sale purchase becomes regrettable. Regrettable because once you’ve bought it you can’t take it back. There was the carpet that we later discovered smelled like a whole litter of big, hairy dogs had slept and peed on it over the course of a lifetime. Or, the never-worn, boutique dress that looked stunning on a hanger but that neither I nor every girlfriend on whom I subsequently pawned it off could wear without feeling like her chest was concave- hence, “never-worn.”
There can be something mildly voyeuristic in the whole enterprise of complete strangers investigating other people’s old stuff. At various times when I have stumbled upon something of interest that is now of no value to their owner and have made an innocent inquiry, it has felt as if I have unknowingly overstepped a hidden boundary in our brief acquaintance. The other day I was poring through a treasure trove of theological literature at a moving sale. I had exclaimed, “What a great library you have! These are books that we ministers love to read!” The woman selling the books in a moment of self-conscious admission then shared that she at one time long ago had been a member and elder of a nearby Presbyterian church. Apparently these books had belonged to that “phase.” It was clear she felt a bit uncomfortable with the direction the conversation might take. I didn’t ask questions, but she gave up those books willingly, 50 cents a piece, and I was glad to give them a home.
Lately, I have been struck by the fact that much of life is a process that involves weeding through our metaphorical “junk”- and we all have “junk” if we’re honest. There’s all of the baggage we’ve collected through the years. Or, the stuff that others pawn off on us, a bit like dresses that don’t fit right but that now we’re stuck with. Sometimes it is hard to find a place for it all. (Have you ever had the experience of your stuff being turned away by the Salvation Army? I have, once.)
But when we can’t find a place for the wrongs we’ve done or that others have done to us, or the hang-ups, inadequacies, or shameful secrets, or the sudden losses that rock our world and leave us wondering how to make sense of them, Jesus can. When we can’t find a rhyme or rhythm to the various and sundry items that we’ve laid out on our lawn in hopes that someone will find a use for them, or see their intrinsic value, Jesus can. He specializes in making a home for “lost” people and things. ”For the Son of Man came to see and save the lost,” He says (Luke 19:10). All we need to do is surrender.