It’s amazing how many shadows are cast in each room as the sun rises first thing in the morning and its rays stream into my home. Lying in bed thinking about the fullness of all that I possess…all that I’ve collected and carefully kept over the years…I feel safe knowing they're there.
Though I enjoy visiting the homes of my friends where there’s space to walk around, places to sit and visit, and an open line of view to the other side of the house to observe what others are doing, I just can’t imagine transforming my home into such a place. Where would I begin? What would I do with it all? How would I decide what to keep and what not?
No, it’s too much to think about. I might as well get up and get started with my daily routine. I follow the same path I have for years weaving in and out and around my many piles, but this time I ask myself, “Why?” Why do I go through such lengths to keep it all? Why am I even asking why? And why now? I’ve done this everyday for years without question, without thinking, and now? Suddenly I have a stirring inside of me to reevaluate my way of life…my comfortable way of life.
I’ve had twinges of guilt in the past when I’ve observed those in need, knowing that I have so much. But I would quickly dismiss those feelings assuring myself that someone else will surely come along to help.
I just can’t imagine the work of searching through, gathering up, and carrying such weighty items to someone else. The other option is even worse. Inviting them inside to search through my treasures themselves would be such an invasion of my privacy. I would be embarrassed for them to see and know how much has been piled up and why…even if there is a story behind each and every possession as well as a happy ending. There would just be too much explaining to do, and so many questions to answer. One would lead to another. Would they understand the choices I’ve made? Would they see the beauty of each keepsake?
It’s so frightening to consider. On the other hand, I am assuming the worst. Well, I’m just not big on taking chances, I guess. Besides, it’s not so bad. After all, I keep my laundry up, my dishes washed, and my toilets clean. I function just fine. Even as I continue with my self-talk, I go through my morning chores. I’ll admit preparing breakfast has always been a little challenging searching for a work space. But before I begin to eat, I always think about how thankful I am for it all.
And then I begin to feel lonely….
Who would have thought that on this particular day that has strangely been filled with thoughts of regret, and at the very moment that sadness begins to creep into my heart that there is no one to enjoy my meal with, there would be a knock at my door.
Instantly, all of my thoughts flee as fear and anger overwhelm me. Who would have the nerve to ignore my signs? Don’t they realize that no one is ever to knock at my door…let alone come into my home? Do they really think I’m going to let them in?
After several seconds of silence, the knocking continues. Well, my breakfast is already interrupted and I probably won’t be able to eat now for the rest of the day. Maneuvering my way to the front of the house, I carefully peek out the window to catch a glimpse of the brave soul rapping on my door.
It’s that woman from the corner…the one with the cart, and she’s got her dog with her. What does she want? If I let her in, her dog will roam around and get into everything…maybe even pee on something, and I probably won’t even know it until my whole place reeks of ammonia. People from the street will smell it and assume it’s me. My thought process of excuses is interrupted by more knocking and a plea for help.
A more careful look out the window reveals a limp animal in her arms. Eventually the annoying whine coming from my front porch pushes me to make a drastic decision. Finally forsaking my privacy, I open my home and she falls at my feet since she was pressing so hard against my door.
In less than a moment, she frantically climbs to her feet cradling her beloved and terribly injured pet, and begging me for help. As if I would have any means to help her. I don’t know what she expects to find here. I stand there not knowing what to do or say as she’s weeping before me.
“Maybe you should find someone who can help you,” I offer as advice. Then, through her sobs, I struggle to make out the words, “That’s why I’m here!”
My heart begins to race as I nervously look around my home wondering what she must think of me. After a little composure, she continues to explain.
“I know he’s only got a few breaths left in him. He’s my best friend, and I’m losing him. I didn't have enough strength in me to carry him to the vet. I didn’t have a phone to use to call one. I would not have been able to pay for any services anyway. If only he hadn’t run out into the street like that. What am I going to do?”
I continue to wonder why she’s telling me all of this. Of all people, why me? Just then the dying body whose belly was barely inflating and deflating stops moving altogether and the woman falls to the floor again screaming. Afraid that someone might hear her and think my home is open to them as well, I quickly rush over to close the front door. I still feel confused with my back against the door watching her wail over her loss.
Then I begin to feel as though I’m being forced to offer her something. My rebellious will is fighting against it, but there’s a small part of me that desires to surrender. My back slides down the door and I sink onto the floor. My hands reach out one in front of the other crawling to her in slow motion. Though I’m fighting against it, every movement causes the surrender inside of me to grow.
By the time I reach her, her sobs have calmed to whimpers. She’s sitting on her knees looking down at what was once her friend, and I feel as though something else is controlling me as my arm reaches around her shoulder and words come out of my mouth that do not sound like my own.
“Maybe we can get through this together…."
The next thing I know, we started searching through my many things and found some pieces of material, several remnants from different bolts. She humbly asked me if she could have them to wrap her dog in. Looking at the folded strips of cloth, fear slowly began to well up inside of me as I remembered why I had kept them. Deep down inside, I knew I must fight this battle and allow this be the first of my treasures that I relinquish. I nodded my head and as we carefully laid the body on one piece, covered it with another and continued with a sort of solemn ceremony. I explained to her what the material meant to me.
“Shannon was my best friend. She loved all sorts of crafts, and was very talented. Back when we were in a Bible study together, she felt inspired by the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. At the time, I was trying to build a wardrobe of professional outfits since I had just finished college and was now on the hunt to begin my career. She actually pieced together using several different coordinating colors a stunning blazer with 3 pairs of slacks each a different color that matched one of the colors in the jacket. She said it was my coat of many colors.”
We both smiled as I talked about Shannon.
“About a year later, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took her so quickly, I felt like she was ripped from my life. But I felt the presence of God more than I ever did before when she died. I leaned on Him and He helped me through it. I insisted that she herself was buried in the coat of many colors she had made for me.”
I looked up and smiled, “And these are the remnants from those bolts that she used. Don’t they look stunning on your best friend?”
After that, we searched for something to use as a little coffin, and before long found a box…a beautiful box that he fit perfectly in. So, I told her the story of the box…how it arrived at my door one day with some groceries, some clothes and a little money. It was at a time when I was struggling quite a bit financially. I had only enough money to pay my rent, but nothing else. I was so hungry. There was no note in the box, and I had no idea where it had come from. But I thanked God for providing.
Then we searched some more and found some dried flower petals to sprinkle around her deceased friend, and I told her the story of the petals.
“You see,” I began, “I always dreamed of a beautiful romance, but as time went on, I realized that I probably will never have one.” She looked sad as I told her. “Then,” I continued, “God revealed to me how much He loves me. It was an amazing moment for me, for just as He spoke to my heart, the doorbell rang and this beautiful arrangement of flowers was delivered to me. The card simply said, ‘With Love.’ I decided to let the petals dry out so I could keep them.”
Next we found a place in the yard to bury the box and a shovel to use to dig up the hole. I even had a story to tell about the shovel.
“It belonged to my grandmother who loved her beautiful garden, and when I was a girl, I took the shovel and dug a hole in the ground, ruining a portion of her flowerbed. When I saw what I had done, I felt so bad. But my grandmother told me that she forgives me just as Jesus forgives her.”
We took some wildflower seeds that I had, and sprinkled them over the area of the grave. Then we covered them up with the rest of the dirt. I told her a story from the Bible about planting seeds. I told her many stories that day…many that went along with my many treasures. Some of the stories were difficult to tell…but I told them anyway. I found myself giving my things away to this woman, and it wasn’t too painful. In fact, I felt good afterward.
Every now and then throughout that day, she reminded me how she just knew that I would be able to help her, and she encouraged me to help others as well. But she didn’t realize just how much she had helped me.
That night I asked God to forgive me for hoarding so many testimonies and allowing them to pile up in the secret places. I promised that if He would send people into my life who needed to hear them, I would be willing give them away.
His light seems to shine more freely now. There are no more dark corners or shadows cast. I’ve removed all of my signs, and I just love inviting people into my heart now.
Amie Spruiell 10/26/13
This fictional story was inspired by my friend who was impressed with a message from our pastor about hoarding our testimonies instead of telling others about them…for it is by the blood of the Lamb AND the word of our testimony that we will overcome…and our testimony brings other to Christ.