Saturday, July 05, 2008

Object Impermanence

When I was a kid -- I can't rememeber how old I was -- I had a special toy. It was one of those "dinkie" cars, as we called them. But it wasn't just any "dinkie" car; it was the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. It was new, shiny, and very much treasured by me. And one day I went outside to play, and I stuck this toy in my jeans pocket. There it remained, until the end of the day. Much to my utter disappointment and dismay, when I took this valued possession out of my pocket later on it was no longer as shiny as it had been. There were scratches on the paint. It was no longer new. I was so disappointed!

I think that part of me had this hope that my most treasured possessions -- at this age this usually meant toys and comic books -- would always be with me, ready at a moment's notice to give me pleasure and provide enjoyment.

At a very young age, children learn what's called object permanence. It's the understanding that even though a given object is out of view that it still exists. You can hide the ball from the toddler, but they still realize that the ball exists even if they can't lay their eyes on it.

On that day when my General Lee "dinkie" car was scratched up and damaged -- and my illusion of it's permanence shattered -- I learned something akin to this: object impermanence, that no objects in this world, none of our possessions, no matter how deeply treasured, are forever.

Ella, too, learned this recently. It happened on more than one occasion, but the one I remember is when she was playing with Thomas and Friends adhesives, re-usable stickers that are meant for window surfaces. The problem with these stickers is, when you stick them to one another, the ink gets peeled off. On this and a couple of other occasions, Ella asked me why something, one of her belongings, was no longer as it was or working as it used to. And so I told her that it was damaged or broken. Now she didn't cry or anything. She wasn't so much upset by this as she was curious about it. I could look in her eyes and see her processing this new knowledge. And I can only pray that we can help her turn this new-found knowledge into wisdom.

In Luke 12 Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about possessions, about what they need to live, that God, knowing full well what we need, can be trusted to provide them. In admonishing his disciples this way, Jesus shows us that he knows well our prediliction to strive for material possessions. Ultimately, Jesus is directing us to recognize the impermanence of such objects: "Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Kids, including my little girl, can get much joy out of and put much into their toys and possessions. I suppose adults are the same; the toys just get bigger and more expensive. But we have to guard our hearts and be wary of treasuring anything that will not last. As one song says, "I never saw a U-Haul being pulled behind a hearse." Doing so keeps us from trusting God as we should, and it keeps us from valuing his Kingdom more than the things of this world. I have to continually be reminded of this too. And only when such a truth becomes more a part of me will my daughter's knowledge that her toys will not last be transformed into a life-giving wisdom that trusts more in the Creator than in any of his creations.


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Anonymous said...

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