Have you ever looked up the word “stuff” in a dictionary? It’s quite entertaining. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes the following definitions, among others, of that which is by definition general and undefined:
materials, supplies, or equipment used in various activities
an unspecified material substance or aggregate of matter <volcanic rock is curious stuff>
a group or scattering of miscellaneous objects or articles <pick that stuff up off the floor>
the movement of a baseball pitch out of its apparent line of flight : the liveliness of a pitch <greatest pitcher of my time … had tremendous stuff— Ted Williams>
If we understood exactly what the great pitcher had, we’d describe it accordingly, but we don’t…exactly. So, “stuff” is a handy word, because it is so “various,” “unspecified” and “miscellaneous.”
Sorting through the stuff of life
Over the last couple of months, my parents have been sorting through the stuff of fifty-plus years of marriage, twenty years of it having been accumulated in their most recent four bedroom house, to decide what to take with them to their new two bedroom apartment. In the aggregate, it is miscellaneous stuff. But to my mom and dad each item has a place in their home, is useful, or represents an important relationship or a valuable memory.
On Sunday night, my parents with assistance from their assorted children, in-laws, and grandchildren, successfully organized selected stuff into carefully labeled boxes. Upon the completion of that great achievement, in what has become the stuff of family tradition, my dad picked up the phone and ordered two Lou Malnati’s pizzas.
We congratulated ourselves, enjoyed the food, laughed, somehow ended up in a theological discussion (another frequent feature of our family meals), and then we prayed. We thanked the Lord for all the life-giving moments that we had enjoyed in that house, for his generous blessings, for the new adventure ahead for my parents, and for each other. We (well, at least I) wiped away a tear or two.
The stuff of fifty-plus years of marriage was bound up in boxes, but the stuff of life was palpably present among us at the table.
Last night, after a long day of unpacking, we gathered again, this time in Mom and Dad’s new home. After another night of laughter, conversation, and prayer, it is clear that in various and unspecified ways their new home will hold the same stuff of life as the other homes in which they have lived.
Some of it will come out of boxes.
“…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15b