Then there’s the “kitchen room,” with its teetering shelves of kitchenware, baskets, frames, and knickknacks. Dusty? That’s understatement. I venture in there in search of older cast iron fry pans for a friend who cleans and re-sells them in an antique mall. But as I round the corner to go out, I have conflicting feelings about the conglomerate of little figurines, cookie jars, china tea cups, and other decorative things dumped here. Most were likely leftovers from emptying a home after death. At one point, they represented something to the person who owned them. Now they’re like those recently unburied terra cotta soldiers in China--relics of mystery.
The “junk jungle” brings two big ideas to me. One is that we keep so much stuff! We attach great importance to things that cannot love us back. Yes, I have some “tokens of memories” around. But trying to dispose of my late mother’s enormous salt and pepper shaker collection cured me of taking up a hobby that involved amassing “like things.” I wonder what sort of things people collected in Bible times. We know that women wore headpieces or jewelry with gold coins as part of their dowry, a real-life insurance policy if something happened to a spouse. And people probably just liked “nice” things. I think of the rich young man who said he was spiritually “right” by keeping all the commandments since his youth. But when Jesus asked him to sell all he owned and give to the poor, he couldn’t do that. “Stuff” and riches held him back (Mark 10).
The second thought that comes as I circle that cluttered “junque” room is the unfathomable love of God. We may feel like rejected, dusty, chipped trinkets that nobody wants any more. But God doesn’t see us that way. What the prophet Isaiah said of God’s value system (here, regarding Israel, but in the bigger picture also us) helps me envision Him going in that junk room and taking one dusty, neglected piece after another and saying, “I have chosen you. You are precious to me.” Or, as the scripture passage puts it:You are precious and honored in my sight....I love you. (Isaiah 43:4)
Many of the items at that thrift store have no marked price, so when you go to pay, the person in charge of the cash register says what he or she feels is an appropriate price. Sometimes you can bargain, but usually not. And here’s where the analogy breaks down. “Stuff” has little value in the junk store. But we're not unwanted castoffs. We're are so valuable to God that He paid the highest price imaginable for us—the death of His son, Jesus.