Today I began packing up this room I've been boarding in for the past 9 months. I opened up all the cupboards I haven't opened since September, I began stuffing things into dusty old boxes, and I threw out more junk than humanly possible.
I tried to keep a system with my packing. I like to be at least somewhat organized, so I sorted things into different boxes with different mental titles. "Fragile Objects." "Books." "For University."
But there was one box I had trouble labeling. After it was full to the brim, I still couldn't figure out what it was. What did all of its contents have in common? There were yearbooks from elementary school in there, photo albums, a couple old teddy bears, birthday cards and sweet letters, some of my journals, my artwork, certificates.... I suppose one might call it "Keepsakes" or "Memories."
I put everything in there not because I wanted to keep it, but simply because it felt "wrong" to throw it away. These old scrapbooks and elementary projects are worth virtually nothing, but it felt like a sin to even consider throwing it in the trash. It felt like I was packing years of my life into this box- or perhaps simply 'snapshots' of years of my life. Fading artifacts that represent memories. Dusty commemorations of the passage of time.
But as I stared down into that dusty ol' box with dusty ol' books and albums, my mind kept drifting to one peculiar thought: "If I were to die, this is the box my family would go through. This would be the box of treasures that they would sort through and cry over." And while I was a little unnerved that I immediately thought of such a dark idea, I couldn't help but ponder.
If I were to die, that would be the box of items that describe Me, Karis Rashleigh, from my birth until my graduation. It's got my poetry, my creations, my photos, my achievements, my memories. And while that box is full to the brim with "treasures," I haven't once looked at any of its contents for years.
I remember packing up my room in my house last year and piling all of it into a box thinking I'd eventually go through it all when I lived in the dorms. I thought it'd be fun. I thought I'd give myself a lazy Saturday and sip tea while laughing at my horrendous drawing skills from the second grade.
But I haven't so much as glanced at these memories. In the same way, I've hardly ever read over blog posts from the past. Once it's posted, it's done, and I'm never inclined to read what I've published.
However, I do tell myself that I'll read all of these posts some day. Maybe I'll make a lazy Saturday out of it. I'll sit and drink tea and scroll through the 100+ journals and articles that I've written over the years, and I'll laugh at my absurd ideas.
But will I ever get around to it?
We seem to think that life goes on forever. There will be time for all our endeavors. There will be time to sit back and reflect over our pasts. There will be time someday... just not now. And yet, I wonder just how many of my creations and achievements will be left to be read over and examined by my children and grandchildren after I'm gone. I wonder how many of my writings and scribbles and notes in my journals will be left only to those who will someday mourn my death?
And it all makes me ponder the brevity of life. Mine is at least 20% over. And if I already have so many papers and binders and albums full of memories I'll never have time to look over, how much more will I have by the time I'm 40? 75? 100?
30 years from now when I try packing a box titled "Keepsakes," what will I put in? What "memories" and "accomplishments" will I deem worthy of saving, rather than tossing? And even then... how many of those items will I ever look at again? How many of those items will anybody look at?
When I'm long gone, all of these keepsakes and treasures will be, too. My kids and grandkids may keep the valuables. They may keep the odds and ends- a piece of writing here, a prized possession there... but most of this will someday find itself shoved into an attic, covered in dust, then thrown out by strangers who couldn't care less.
That paper with my tiny preschool handprint on it seems somewhat sacred and precious to me right now, but its value and importance is decreasing every day. That poem I wrote in the third grade and proudly recited before the class hasn't been read by anybody since then. Someday, it will be reduced to ashes.
Already, we're being forgotten. Maybe not our present selves, but our past selves are. Do you know your great-great-great-grandma? Do you know her name? Can you name the accomplishments of your ancestors? For most of us, the answer is "No." They were born, they lived, and they died, unannounced. While they may have felt important and significant in their time, they are now lost to the historical records. There is no person alive who remembers their name, or even their existence, because the people who knew them and loved them are gone and forgotten, too.
And here we are, destined to the same fate, but still believing that we're something special. How sobering it is to realize that this is all for nothing. We will die, we will decompose, and we will be forgotten. But here's the redeeming factor: we have a shot at permanence. We have a way to ensure that some of the moments of our life on this earth will not be forgotten!
Our sacrifices for the Kingdom of Heaven. Our humble obedience to God. Our acts of surrender and servitude to Christ. These are the things that are being stored as treasure in Heaven. These are the things that will be remembered for eternity.
The only tricky thing is... these treasures only amount to something in Heaven if we allow them to. If we announce our deeds and publicize our actions in this life, then they get to go in the dusty ol' "Keepsake" box, destined for decomposition. If we seek recognition for our actions in this world, we may receive it, but that's all the reward we will receive. That's it. A moment of glory, a second of appreciation, and then oblivion.
The dichotomy is an interesting one. While this world tells us to parade ourselves and show off our accomplishments in order to make a name for ourselves, it is a different story in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Economy of Heaven, our proudest moments go unannounced. Our greatest rewards are kept secret. Our most significant sacrifices may very well be forgotten on earth. In fact, they may not ever be noticed by anyone... until we breathe our last.
But once we enter into His presence, that will all change. Because even though the world forgot, our friends forgot, and our families forgot... God remembered. And He has stored our treasures up in Heaven, rather than in a dusty ol' "Keepsake" box.
I will be forgotten. You will be forgotten. We all will be forgotten.
Depending on where your allegiance lies and what you devote your time to, that can either be the most exciting or most terrifying statement you'll ever face.
Matthew 6:2-3 - When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.