Selling your past a nickel at a time. That’s what a garage sale is. You dig up things from the basement or from the back of the closet that you forgot you had–the doll you took everywhere when you were five, the matchbook cars that you raced off the kitchen table, perhaps a pair of pants that looked great in the store but never quite made it into your permanent wardrobe.
Garage sales are a great time to get rid of the extra junk that you’ve let accumulate from the past. You have a chance to finally let go of some old mementos and gifts that you meant to use but never could find a place for. You try to sell the furniture that is worn down and tired, or the outdated camera that you no longer use. You display these old memories in a presentable way and wait for someone to come along to pay you for your memories to create their own or to throw it in the back of their own closet, accumulating even more dust.
As I priced some of my own memories at our family’s recent rummage sale, I wondered why I had held on to some of these objects for so long. Some held memories, yes, but those memories were slowly being buried in layers of dust and forgetfulness. I wasn’t the only one in my family guilty of being a packrat–my parents decided to finally sell our crib–an item of furniture that had not been used for at least 16 years. Why had we held on to that?
Garage sales are not only great for getting the junk out and making some cash, they are also a great analogy for life. While I priced some of my old stuffed animals and tried not compare any of them to the Velveteen Rabbit, I wondered what other childish things I had been holding on to. What were some bad habits that I needed to clear out of the closet, some childish ways of thinking that were cluttering up my path to adulthood? I could think of many things–the procrastination habits that college had done nothing to erase, the reckless spending habits, even a selfish attitude that I clung to like my old security blanket. It was soft and comforting and did absolutely nothing to help myself or others.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of my childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11, TNIV). That verse had always perplexed me. Why would anyone willingly give up behaving like a kid to grow into a boring adult? Who would abandon finger paints and play dough and super slides for credit card bills and oil changes and stuffy suits?
But as I am coming to realize all of the messy childhood ways that are holding me back, this verse is making a lot more sense. By putting "the ways of my childhood behind me,” by growing up and facing the adult responsibilities in front of me, I am clearing the clutter and making room for greater and greater things to happen in my life.
This twentysomething life is a difficult time for me to figure out, and I think part of the problem is that at this time, in our generation, the 20s are more of an in-between time than they have ever been before. While many of our parents were married and settled and had started the career that they would probably continue for the rest of their lives, our generation is taking things a little bit slower. We have seen all the chaos that can ensue in the grown-up life, and we are approaching it a bit more cautiously.
All of this stalling, however, is slowing us down. We are not giving up our childish ways to become the adults that are needed in this society. We are shirking responsibilities, pushing things off until we are ready to deal with them.
The verse in 1 Corinthians has finally started to become clear to me. Only by moving on, by giving up some of our childish thoughts, actions and habits, can we truly grow up. This doesn’t mean that we stop having fun, or that we have to chose a path in life that requires a suit or a stock portfolio. But it does mean that we as a generation need to start taking on some responsibilities. I need to stop procrastinating from life and start taking some initiative, or else I will continually be like a wide-eyed child, wondering why everything is passing me by so quickly. I can’t live in the past, but I have the freedom to make choices for my future. I not only can decide what I want to be when I grow up, I can decide that I want to grow up.
So as I contemplate the further meanings of this verse and how they are applicable to my own childish junk, I encourage you to think about what rubbage you can rummage and what garbage belongs in the garage of your life. What are some childish things that you thought you needed, but are really just cluttering up your life, making it more difficult to navigate?
Now that the garage sale is over and many of my dusty items have found their way to a new loving home, I can decide what to put in that now-empty space in my closet and what to get with my new wad of singles. The possibilities are endless. And, turns out, I really don’t miss my old camera bag as much as I thought I would.