My daughter called me recently and announced that my Christmas present would be arriving in a couple of weeks. Christmas in the summer? Who can argue with that?
The present she had in mind would not arrive gaily wrapped in a big red box – this was to be a present far different than any I had ever received.
My daughter explained that she and her husband were going to spend a week in Augusta cleaning out the attic! I was quick to point out to her the magnitude of the task. This was a large 900-square-foot area that held 36 years of accumulated great stuff. She told me to order a 5-ton dumpster and have it placed outside of the attic window; beyond that, I was to “stay away!”
After seven days and several nights, 16 trips to Goodwill, a pickup from the Salvation Army, friends driving away with full car trunks and the mute witness of the bulging 5-ton dumpster, the task was completed. With the exception of a few remaining “treasures,” the attic was empty. As we stood in the now bare room and toasted this remarkable task, I asked myself, “Why had I kept all that stuff?” Why didn’t I give it all away a long time ago?
“Giving” was the word used repeatedly in the main ballroom at Augusta Marriott earlier this month as 500 colleagues, co-workers and friends of Dr. Roddy Kitchens gathered to celebrate the culmination of his 32 years as a cardiac surgeon at University Hospital. It was pointed out that over that time, Kitchens restored heart function for thousands of patients, and the ripple effect of that restoration touched, influenced and changed tens of thousands of lives.
There were many testimonials to Kitchens’ surgical skill, but the key to his remarkable achievements was what happened after the surgery – the postoperative care period. Kitchens was always present, giving of his knowledge, his compassion, himself. Throughout most of those 32 years he put his life on hold and gave to others that most precious gift: his time.
I know the extended standing ovation he received will echo in his heart for a very long time. Kitchens’ life is a powerful witness as to how we will all be measured – not by what we have, but by what we gave.
The message of God becoming incarnate in Jesus is a message of giving that is incomprehensible to the human mind, but not the human heart. God gives us our lives and places this wonderful Earth in our care. The incarnation is the convergence of God and His creation. God gave up Himself, became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we might once and for all see what he has in mind for us.
The entire ministry and word of Jesus over and over again tells us that in order to be full we must empty ourselves; in order to be exalted we must be a servant, in order to experience the fullness of life we first must die to self. Jesus gave us his ultimate gift. Jesus gave us his life so that we are freed from sin and death. The operative words here are, “give it away.”
We all have attics that are filled to overflowing. Could it be time to empty that space and give all that good “stuff” away?
THE REV. JOE BOWDEN IS ASSISTING PRIEST AT THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMFORTER IN MARTINEZ.