Man-Made vs. God-Given


It was a little ridiculous. Okay, it was a LOT ridiculous.  We were only about 5 miles away, and we were happy with our new house.  Plus, it had only been a week.  The Saturday after the move, I just wanted to see our old house.  Michael was working in the new yard, the kiddos were riding bikes and scooters in the cul-de-sac, all under control.  I’d just do a little drive-by.

On the way over, I remembered Lindsay’s initial reaction to seeing the “for sale” sign in the front yard.  The move was not a surprise – we had talked to the children about it, but I guess seeing the sign made it more “real” to her.  She was only 5, and the only move she remembered was the one from Florida to Georgia.  In that particular move, she left her friends and her church – her whole little world. Her five-year-old mind couldn’t really understand that this move was different: she would still be in the same school, with the same friends, in the same church, involved in the same activities.  In her own little way, this move was a “move of faith” for her.  She was having to trust mom and dad to tell her the truth and act in her best interests even when she did not understand.

Pulling into our former subdivision, I passed the pool and a favorite neighbor’s house.  This sweet couple had brought over dinner for us the day we moved in.  It was a welcome treat after being on the road from Florida for so many hours.  Turning the corner, I saw “our” house.  Though the new owners were not outside at the moment, I could tell some work was going on,  They were moving plants, bringing in furniture, same things we were doing in our new house.  I could see paint cans in the driveway, and a ladder.  It was no surprise that they were painting, and I imagined that Lindsay’s vivid pink walls would be the first to go!  It was an exciting time, transforming a house into a home, and I smiled for the new couple.

Then I noticed a big, white… wait. What was that?  No, it wasn’t.  No, they didn’t.  No, they couldn’t have.  No really, they wouldn’t.  I had to slow down so I could see it better.  Yes. The  big white piece was my custom bookshelves, and it was apparent they were on their way to the dump.  They had been built in, so getting them out must have been some work. I loved those shelves.  Eight feet high, they went almost up to the ceiling.  Cabinets underneath the adjustable shelves, and moulding to match the rest of the room.  The carpenter did a beautiful job.  They looked as if they had always belonged there, and they were my favorite part of my formal living room.

I remember when I had finally saved enough money to have those shelves built.  I couldn’t wait to see them installed.  Upon moving to this house, I had not been able to unpack all my books because I didn’t have a place to put them.  The day the shelves were finally finished, I carried my boxes of books up from the garage.  Opening each box and sorting, I opened each one to get reacquainted with these old friends.  I sorted them and put them in my own order, arranging some by memory, arranging some by height, some by category…. Once I was done, I loved how they looked – I just sat and admired them.  Moving my favorite chair in between my new shelves and my big picture window created a perfect setting for a quiet read. Love!

Now my bookshelves were in the front yard.  Scrap wood.

Heartbroken at first, I turned and went home.  When I told Michael, he wasn’t surprised at all (let me tell you something about Michael – he’s not getting involved in melodramatics – he’s stable at all times).  He told me, “You know why they did that, don’t you?  When you had those shelves built in, you covered up the cable outlet.”

The cable outlet?  Was he for real?  The cable outlet.  I thought about my shelves.  Jane Austen used to live there, and Charlie Shedd.  Emily Bronte, Elisabeth Elliot and Edith Wharton.  Margaret Runbeck and Catherine Marshall. All my biographies (I love a true story), and my own stories, my journals and photo albums, my treasures.  Now they were ripped out and for what? SportsCenter?

Michael brought me out of my melodrama and back in to reality. “Jennifer, they did not rip out Jane Austen.  You moved her here.  Go inside and read a book if you want.  Besides, SportsCenter is awesome.”  I had to laugh at myself.  I went inside and started to make plans for new bookshelves. Wonder if that carpenter is still available?

Jesus had advice regarding our treasures here on earth.  He said, ““Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  It is not wrong to have material things – the Lord wants you to be blessed!   However, it is wrong if your greatest treasures are tangible and temporal.

We are told that earthly treasures can be stolen or destroyed.  Jesus does not tell us how to protect these “earthly treasures”.  There no way to protect or preserve forever what is made by man. Jesus tells us to replace them with treasures in heaven. There’s our exchange, our “trade”.  If we release our earthly treasures, God will give us treasures in heaven where man cannot ever take them away.  We carry these God-given treasures in our hearts and in our spirit.

At the end of the day, my bookshelves weren’t really a loss.  They weren’t even my bookshelves anymore.  My reaction was obviously disproportionate.  Besides, my joy wasn’t found in those bookshelves.  They were paint, wood, nail, easily replaced and rebuilt. I had more valuable treasures in my life and in my heart.

One more thing about treasures, about the things that give us happiness: if we give man the power to control or create our happiness, then we are also giving man the power to destroy or steal our happiness.  Putting your treasure in human hands is a bigger gamble than I am willing to take, how about you? Recognizing God as the source and control of my happiness here on earth, storing my abundance in Him – that’s a treasure.

Praying that you will be able to differentiate between man-made and God-made treasures in your life today, my friend 🙂

Jennifer ❤

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