I have come to the philosophical understanding that people often think of themselves as great accomplished buildings when their lives are more accurately described by yard sales. This past week one of the most iconic buildings in our area went abandoned. The Longaberger Basket Company office building is a grand seven story structure made to look just like the woven baskets they sold. For many years they were one of the most collectible, highest quality, greatly desired gifts available. The reality of harsh economic times and dwindling sales have turned this once famous and profitable venture into a has been. What once was grand is now a remembrance. What was once highly desired is now a common yard sale find. The cycle of life continues.
Many people see their lives as majestic monuments to what can be. Great towering impressive structures are built by dreamers with hopes beyond the reality they live. The designers and builders of the Basket building stood with great pride at its opening ceremonies. The possibilities are endless, the dreams boundless and the truth found in the yard sale. As children we find ourselves marveling at the treasures stacked on tables in front of open garage doors. We can barely understand why these marvels are put on display for a mere pittance of their original cost. Yet we have no idea what that cost was. That young couple had worked extra hours, saved carefully and finally rewarded themselves with the item they could not imagine living their lives without. They had treasured it, bragged on it, admired it and protected it for many years. It was no longer the center of their existence. It had long ago ceased to be the measuring stick of their value.
We marry in our late teens and early twenties having nothing more than the God given desire for each others happiness. Starting out on the low end of the economic scale a young couple often finds bargains galore at yards sales.
Their relationship is based upon a common goal and common interests. They seek for approval and follow the examples of those with similar values. Their growth is like the accumulation of yard sale finds. Like the new (used) table to finish out the living room set, the toy box you can’t buy in the store anymore or the tools needed to repair and create because you can’t afford new ones. Each find, each bargain, each experience is a building block. Their house becomes a home and its contents a treasure trove of memories and usefulness.
With increasing fortune the items they seek turn from everyday necessities to things they only dreamed of before. Much like the lives they live, they are more attached to a greater diversity of things found at yard sales. They have made many new friends, have differing interests and no longer are satisfied with just the simple primitive lives they began with. They may have moved from the home of humble beginnings to a larger storage facility, err, I mean house. So there is more room for family additions and of course, yard sale finds. Yet times change and desires are refined. As their circumstances improve, they visit fewer yards sales and more of those lavishly appointed department stores.
The family grows, pets come and go, children graduate. There are always new fads, new science, new means of travel and entertainment. New cities for new jobs, grand vacation adventures, and changing opinions of values which are all part of the cycle of life. They accumulate, store up, re-gift and eventually through the course of time and abundance of resources, have their own yard sale. They yard sale when the babies stop coming, when growth exceeds usefulness, when they move to a new place, or when they are no longer able to maintain who they have become. Their treasures become bargains and room is made for that which is yet to come. Sometimes it is a yard sale of desperation. Life is not always kind to the hopes and dreams we have.
Somewhere along the way builders of buildings understand that their unique edifices may not be the “end all be all” they had hoped for. The Basket building will someday be removed. Oh it will probably be occupied for its uniqueness for a while and pass through different hands as it languishes. It may get a fresh coat of paint or gigantic strawberries around its windows. Eventually it will be the sight of the yard sale which empties it of its furnishings and fixtures. I imagine this event which I have seen so many times will happen to my life as well. When my wife and I are gone or no longer able to care for ourselves, there will be a yard sale.
The dreams and circumstances which gave us blessings and hardships are remembered in each stack of preciousness on those tables. The tools and necessities which were so helpful for many years will be placed out under the weekend skies. Those treasures which we beamed proudly about will become fodder for dickering and bartering sessions. The once fine clothes which don’t sell will be donated. The worth of life is not measured by the yard sale but rather by the living which brought us to this place.
The great buildings deteriorate. The treasures become trinkets. The moguls become mere men. The profit of the yard sale is the price of living. Existing is what buildings do. The works of our hands make treasures to be desired, admired and eventually discarded. But LIFE is not so. Life is not intended to be discarded. It is a treasure beyond greatest price. It is celebrated by memories and love and hearts bent and broken. Life is the gift of Almighty God. Life is not created nor extended by man or science. Life is for one purpose, to be enjoyed as the vessel to fulfill God’s desire for fellowship. Regardless of the towering height, a building is for the protection and indwelling of people. Regardless of the prominence a person may have, their life is for fellowship with our creator to His glory.
The lowest valued soul on earth is a far greater treasure than the most valued thing any man can define. The cheapest yard sale trinket may have been of great price at one time. Yet Jesus paid the greatest price which could be paid for every soul born on this earth. What we become in this lifetime matters. Are you seen by others as a magnificent structure or a yard sale bargain? Are you a “Once they were great”? Or is your greatness found not in the yard sale but in the value assigned by the maker of life?
Some of us have accomplished more in our lives than our parents could possibly have imagined or hoped for. Some of us are seldom mentioned for our notoriety. All of us are of value to our creator. The designers and builders of the Basket building have memories of overcoming technological challenges to make something unique. The lessons learned from those experiences benefited many other structures.
In the end it will have one more purpose. A building may be restored and re-purposed. A yard sale treasure may once again abound with the delight of renewed use. Your life, will either glorify God for His grace and mercy or justify God in His judgment and condemnation of sin. You get to choose which. Whether your vision is of grandeur or something simple, you choose. Whether you marry or remain single you choose. Whether your purpose if fulfilled or you flounder in a void, you choose. You see, the great creator gave you the gift of choice. And even if you cannot choose the worth of your substance at a yard sale, you can choose your relationship with Him. In speaking to His chosen people many years ago, He said “ I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your children may live”. He is saying the same to you today, whether you are a skyscraper or a yard sale trinket. You are His treasure. Choose Life.