“Every man looks upon his wood pile with a sort of affection.”
- Henry David Thoreau
All of my life I have enjoyed the blessings of the generosity of others. This includes procuring firewood. I have friends in the church that have allowed me to cut wood, gather wood, and at times some have delivered wood practically to my doorstep. Few things in housekeeping are more satisfying than a generous stack of firewood. Thoreau continued his soliloquy on firewood writing, “I love to have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to remind me of my pleasing work.”
Yet no matter how grand the stack, as winter’s chill sets in so goes the wood. Firewood was meant to burn to warm both home and heart. The cycle of generosity repeats itself: find, cut, split and deliver more wood year in and year out.
We spend our days accumulating and then in time we begin giving it all away. I have been reminded of this lesson of late as I know of several in our church family who are “downsizing” from larger homes to smaller ones. There is the sentimental and at times painful sorting through a lifetime of artifacts trying to determine what to keep, what to give away and what to throw out. Meanwhile the concentric circles of life grow smaller and smaller. Such is life.
It is at this liminal and sacred place that grants us space to reflect on what it is in this world that is most valuable and what it is that we will take with us even into the grave. I collect and horde, cherish and sentimentalize so many things and so much stuff. But in truth, like my seasonally diminishing woodpile, it will in the end come to nothing. There are a few things, however, that are worth my whole life.
Jesus once mused, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:25) When my time is done, I hope that my woodpile has been used up. I hope that the love for my wife and children will be complete with nothing held back. I hope that when the earth claims the last of my remains all of me will have been given completely away.
Let us love one another generously. Let us celebrate what we have and not what we wish we had. Let us in due time give it all away so that those who come behind us may be warmed by our fires.