Moth, Rust, and Restoration
The death of my Grandma Boyd in June of 2017, followed by the somewhat unexpected passing of my grandpa six months later, ushered in a new and harsh reality for my family in more ways than one. While deeply mourning the loss of their physical presence here on earth, my parents (along with my aunt and uncle) also began the slow and arduous process of settling my grandparents’ estate.
My parents and I spent nearly 6 weeks of the Summer of 2018 doing the things that family members typically do when loved ones pass and property is left behind: sorting through closets, cupboards, and dusty basement boxes; shredding old tax documents and receipts; making a few trips to the local thrift store to drop off donations. We also happened to fill two 30-yard dumpsters with broken furniture, moldy books, inoperable exercise machines, defunct lawn equipment, and hundreds (if not thousands) of old magazines and catalogs. That was Summer #1.
And then there was Summer #2, which consisted of several more weeks of sorting, more shredding, and more filling of dumpsters—three more dumpsters, to be exact.
And then there was Summer #3, which involved several more weeks of sorting, a little bit more shredding, and the filling of two final dumpsters. All in all, 17 automobile sales, 7 auctions, and 7 full dumpsters later, in July of 2020 my parents sold the home my grandparents built over forty years ago and officially finished the journey God had placed them on two-and-a-half years earlier.
I am not telling you all of this to make a spectacle of my grandparents’ lives or possessions or to garner sympathy for my parents and all the backbreaking work they have done over the course of the last few years. I would simply like to share what God has so graciously taught me, as I have walked with my parents through this bittersweet season. He truly can redeem and use any situation for his glory and our good!
Lesson #1: Keep your heart with all vigilance.
As I sorted through box after box that first summer, I couldn’t help but recall the numerous Scripture passages that speak to the worthlessness of idols (1 Chr. 16:26; Ps. 31:6; 96:5). To put it plainly, idols are rubbish, and placing one’s trust in anything outside of the one true God will always lead to emptiness and utter ruin. The things of this world can never satisfy or provide the security and love our hearts desire.
Idolatry starts in the heart, and even good things can start to creep up the priority ladder and begin to lure our hearts away from total allegiance to Christ. Long ago, I memorized Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” That particular verse has always been a practical reminder to me that the state of our hearts directly influences what we think, and what we choose to say and do. Sorting through all the belongings that filled literally every nook and cranny of my grandparents’ home has served as a very tangible reminder of the importance of regularly and humbly going before the LORD, asking him to search my heart, and, in his mercy, to reveal and remove any thoughts, words, or actions that indicate misplaced affections and desires (Ps. 139: 23-24).
Lesson #2: Invest in eternity.
Years before my grandparents passed away, whenever my mom and aunt would talk about the overwhelming amount of “stuff” my grandparents owned and the thought having to sort through it all one day, they would often repeat this simple phrase from Matthew 6 to each other: “Moth and rust. Moth and rust.” It was their way of reminding each other that all of the “stuff” would one day pass away and that one’s true treasure lies in eternity.
I will never forget the sight of the motor home my grandpa bought barely-used decades ago. After one big cross-country adventure, it was marooned in a grassy plot next to the gravel driveway, never to motor again. Over the years, it started sinking into the ground, almost to the point where the tires were no longer visible above the grass. The once-pristine paint started to fade, and the rust started to spread across the expansive metal exterior like a virus.
As odd as it may sound, God has graciously used that decaying motor home to remind me of the biblical truths found in Matthew 6:19-21:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Material possessions are not inherently bad, and our Heavenly Father wants us to enjoy his gifts. It’s how we respond to his goodness and how we use those gifts that reveals the true state of our hearts. Are we worshiping the created instead of the Creator? Are our hearts filled with gratitude and contentment, or are we constantly looking for the next thing or relationship or experience to satisfy our souls? As his children, we have a responsibility to wisely steward the gifts he has provided, strategically choosing to invest in things that advance his kingdom and showcase his glory. As C.T. Studd so aptly noted, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Invest in what matters to God. Everything else is moth and rust.
Lesson #3: Rejoice in the present and hope in the promise of future restoration.
This post would not be complete without sharing at least a brief ending to the story of my grandparents’ estate, because the ending is only something our great God, in all his infinite wisdom and glory, could orchestrate.
By June of 2020, the only remaining things to be sold were the house, a few outbuildings, and several acres of beautiful, densely-wooded land. As one might imagine, the various physical structures, as well as the land, had all fallen prey to the disorder and decay that naturally compound with years of neglect. We knew God would have to provide a unique buyer who would be willing to take on a massive amount of work to restore the house and property to a safe, livable condition.
At just the right time, God led a young couple, genuine followers of Jesus, to place an offer on the estate. We quickly discovered that they work full-time with a campus collegiate ministry and desired to purchase the property in order to use it for service and ministry to college students who attend the University of Illinois. In his goodness, God is using this faithful couple to breathe new life into this little plot of land in rural Urbana, IL. Someday soon that property will be a safe and welcoming place for campouts, baseball games, retreats, and Bible studies. Though the new owners have a lot of work ahead, my heart is already rejoicing at the thought of my grandparents’ property being purchased and eventually restored as a means to spread the Gospel and minister to others.
The purchase and eventual restoration of my grandparents’ former property has served as a sweet reminder to me of our present joy as believers, as well as our hope in the promise of future restoration—the now, and the not yet. Even now, we rejoice in having been reconciled to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18), while we also expectantly long for the not yet. We wait with patience and peace “...for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” ( 2 Pet. 3:13).