“Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous. . .” Psalm 32
All day yesterday, an intermittent screech would come crashing through the open basement window of my office. A son of the man who used to live next door—before he died several years ago—was cleaning out his father’s three-stall garage, one old two by four at a time. Today, out front, there stands a pyramid of junk, which attracts me for some shady reason, but I’ll do my best to stay away.
I couldn’t see him from where I sat, but I heard every last armful of trash come down on the pile whenever he’d emerge from the shadowy interior of the old garage. What made the job worse was that his father was an ace tinkerer. I’m not sure whether he was, by nature, a pack rat, but his father’s ability to fix anything meant that nothing lacked value. It was a huge job, and my guess is his son will be at it again today.
I found the whole operation scary. The detritus one accumulates throughout life is incredible. Sometimes I think I’d like to move out of town and into the country somewhere, where the massive prairie sky is a daily—and nightly—art museum. What keeps me from looking for another house is the gargantuan task of moving, which would necessarily include the job my neighbor’s son was doing yesterday—tossing junk.
Here in my office, I’m surrounded by it, stuff I wouldn’t think of tossing that will be just so much junk to my kids. Maybe I ought to buy one of those little guns that produce lettered plastic tape and label everything—“this is a pin I got when I was asked to read an essay at a commemoration of 9/11—a year later.” Who would ever know otherwise? And who—well, no one—would ever care?
Upstairs, I’ve got two shelves of old Dutch books, some of which come from my grandfather and my great-grandfather, preachers in the old days. There others, a dozen at least, that I bought for almost nothing at an auction. Some of those were printed before the American Revolution. When I’m gone, will anyone care?—or will those ancient texts simply be returned to another auction, where some anxious fancier will gleefully buy them, and put them carefully on another bookshelf until she dies—an endless cycle.
That next door junk pile reminds me, all too clearly, of my own life, a thought that would never have entered my mind twenty years ago, but now, as I approach sixty, may well be all too haunting.
By human standards, it’s impossible to deny that life is tragic; there’s no escaping the grim reaper, after all. Everyone must die. Count on it. All things must pass. Someday, my books, my baseball trophies, my ergonomic keyboard—it all must go. Even my wife, even my children—and theirs, my beloved grandkids; we all will die.
Like so many Bible verses, it’s altogether too easy to pass over the triumph that sounds at the end of Psalm 32. “Rejoice,” King David the forgiven says. “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad.” It’s not a whimper or a whisper. It’s a shout because what needs to be routed is the despair we all come heir to as flesh weakens and spirits collapse before a square hole in the ground.
Rejoice, David says, as do all believers. Rejoice and be glad. Rejoice in His love because the Lord, the almighty tinkerer, makes all things new, even the junk next door—and the pile here in my heart.
Rejoice and be glad because God our Savior never tosses a thing.
This meditation is six or seven years old. The Dutch books stand proudly in a little room we call the library in a brand new house that looks out over miles and miles of open country Siouxland. Sweetly ironic--all of that: everything's changed, and nothing has.