We could picture the sign on the door, written in a fanciful script with whimsical charm. We could see the striped awnings hanging over the windows and the black and white checkered floor greeting customers at the door. Mom's imagination had given birth to a new business venture brainchild: "Stuff."
The idea was to take old, neglected furniture and home decor and refurbish it. Mom would take old chairs, end tables, lamps, mirrors - any piece she could find that had hidden potential - and breath into it new life. Revitalize and redesign it! She started putting her plan into motion by visiting estate sales, purchasing chairs with missing seats and dressers standing on their last legs. All were gems in disguise, treasures just waiting to be uncovered.
My Dad, the ever plotting and planning entrepreneur, was all for this new business idea. He even bought my Mom a hand sander for Christmas. Romantic, don't you think?
Around the kitchen table Mom and I used to dream up more ideas about how the store front would look and where we would travel to find our hidden treasures. We discussed the eye-catching displays and catchy advertising phrases that would draw in customers. We were all excited about the impending opening of "Stuff."
But time passed and so did "Stuff." The doors never opened. In fact, the black and white checkered floor was never even ordered, let alone installed. All of those mismatched, broken chairs never did experience the transformational work that could have been accomplished with that new hand sander. Instead, "Stuff" became a storage unit piled high. "Stuff" became what my brothers and I affectionately called, "Crap."
"Stuff" was a genius business idea at the time. For a few moments, even my brothers, always the jokesters, agreed. But the bloom was quickly off the rose when the reality of "Stuff" came to light. The money that would need to be spent to get the store up and running, the time spent having to man the hours of operation once we were open for business, the restraint owning "Stuff" would put on our families ability to pick up and travel all together…the reality of "Stuff" looked drastically different than the dream of "Stuff."
Isn't that how most "stuff" ends up? All of the treasured stuff becomes random knicknacks and whatchacall-its that no one knows what to do with! The latest must have item ends up being a dust-covered, space-sucking burden, buried under a pile of other "stuff" that was, at one point, an absolute essential.
The story of "Stuff" is now ancient family history. The jokes continue on - they always will - but the dream and the broken chairs are long gone. But the lesson of "Stuff" is just as real and just as relevant today as it was the day we put the lock on the storage unit: stuff doesn't satisfy.
I was reminded of the lesson of stuff this morning as I read Psalm 23. Never before had I read that particular Psalm and thought in terms of material possessions. The moment I read verse one my mind was stopped dead in its tracks: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
Stuff. I shall not want stuff….
Biblical scholars and seasoned pastors might not preach with materialism in mind when they preach on the beloved Psalm 23 but this morning that was precisely how God preached it to my heart. I didn't even need to go on to verse two. Verse one was a sermon all of its own. It was as if God were speaking directly to me through words I've known by heart for years but never applied in this particular way: "Stephanie, you shall not want stuff."
"But God," my mind said, "I happen to like stuff. I like stuff so much I even jumped on board with opening a store bearing the name 'Stuff.' Stuff is appealing to me. I don't worship stuff, but I enjoy stuff. Purchasing stuff can be fun. Finding just the right stuff can be a thrill! I know stuff isn't as good as you, God, and I don't worship the stuff. So what's the harm?"
Then I read the first part of that verse again and I shut my mouth. "The Lord is my shepherd."
By declaring that the Lord alone is my shepherd I lay down my own wants. Maybe my wants aren't evil or malicious in nature - that isn't the point. The point is that I lay down all wants no matter what they are so that I can devote myself entirely to my Shepherd. If I am dedicated to both His guiding and my own wants then I can easily become torn. But when I cast off my own wants I can submit to the care of my Shepherd wholeheartedly and completely.
Stuff can be tempting. But all that glitters is not gold, even the shiniest jewelry loses its sparkle. The latest and greatest technology becomes obsolete. But the Word of the Lord stands forever. The great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, remains the same yesterday, today and every day to come. There is no stuff on earth that can compare or satisfy like Christ. Every material possession on this earth will end up like my family's fantasy store, "Stuff." It will sound great on paper, excite the dream life but in reality it won't live up to all the hype.
God alone can truly satisfy and sustain. He alone can surpass our wildest dreams and bring true excitement to our reality. When we want for Him alone, when we yearn for and desire Jesus Christ, our souls won't be in want for all of the stuff of this world. They will be filled to the overflowing with the goodness of God. The need for "stuff" will be satisfied by the Savior.