Once upon a time I didn’t think about what I did, or at least I didn’t let myself think about any of it.  When we let the laundry pile up, though, eventually we are going to actually have to do it or else we will have no clothes.  I suppose you could just try buying new ones to replace the dirty ones (like my brother did for a season of his life), but eventually that well will run dry.  Even for the rich and famous.  Inevitably, we will all find ourselves needing to do the laundry.  We can pay someone else, we can do it all by hand, or (the real goal) we might grow up enough to throw it in the machine and know that it’s all going to come out looking like it should.

You couldn’t pay me to let someone do my dirty laundry, and by this I mean let someone sift through the heavy places of heart and mind, because if we were talking about actual jeans and t-shirts and socks, then yes (a resounding YES), I would let someone do that laundry.  But not the emotional stuff.  And since I wasn’t mature enough to use the machine, I did it all by hand.  Eventually I just plain old had to start making room, and the process was arduous and just entirely un-fun.  Each piece of my life would have to be dragged up and down that washboard, scraping my knuckles and burning my hands on hot water and soap.  And then I would have to wring out as much water as possible, sweating from the effort.  Give them a good shake, and spread them around on the grass to dry.  Each piece of my life needed handling because that’s what the process requires.  So when I did (think about everything), think about the different things I was (or wasn’t) doing, I would have to shrug my shoulders and say that in the end I was willing to make the trade.

Life really is all about barter and trade, isn’t it?

And laundry.

(I just don’t think there’s any way around the laundry).

Here’s the thing.  I have sometimes done what is right and it made me really happy, and I have sometimes done what is wrong and it made me really happy.  I think we have to be careful when we put too much emphasis on consequences.  I believe in God and heaven and hell and sin.  I believe that, as a Christian, I need to act in a way that supports that (i.e. if you call yourself a Christian, you should be following the teachings of the Bible, which is the guidebook of Christianity).  I think we try to get people to avoid “sinning” because we don’t want them to blacken their hearts and ruin their lives.  But it’s not really like that, is it?  At least, not all the time.  (Maybe not even most of the time.  I have my own theories about why that is, but I’m going to keep moving forward…)  What I’m trying to say is that I have made plenty of poor choices and have not reaped any traumatizing results.  To be sure, I could have.  I could have been the lucky son-of-a-gun who got an STD or got pregnant young or overdosed or whatever, but I wasn’t.  And that’s the way it is for a good portion of us.  So that most of us don’t really have any consequences at all.  Don’t get me wrong- the poor choices I’ve made haven’t made my life better.   I have certainly embarrassed myself, and maybe even experienced some real, deep shame now and again.  In the end, regardless of trauma or minimal repercussions, I did discover that we can’t just do whatever we want to do and not accumulate some baggage from it all.  I think in society’s eyes, though, we don’t really think we are accumulating baggage (aka dirty laundry).  We think we are accumulating “memories”.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing can compare to those really good times we have had.  I’m sure you all know what I mean when I say “good times”.  I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own good times.  I could try to paint you this really romanticized version of mine, and I could even make you wish that you had been there too.  Being with other people, to the limits of our mind, soul, and body, is the most incredible thing on the planet.  I can try to convince you that it isn’t, but it’s a moot point.  And for those of you that may not know, a moot point is the same as saying that something is obsolete.  For instance, I could erase everything that I just wrote about how charming experiences of the body can be, and we would be right back to where we started.  For the academic, we would call this a presupposition: a self-evident truth.  Which means that we both walked onto this scene already understanding that the stimulation of the senses is perhaps the loudest siren of them all.

I’m going to take a step back from all of these words and simply tell you about a conversation that I just had with someone.

This someone has been one of my closest friends for years now.  We lived together when we were young, in our late teens and early twenties, and we spent our weekends doing whatever we wanted.  I would like to assure you that our pastimes would probably qualify as mild at most, we were basically at Boy Meets World level, but to us they were racy and thrilling, and I think that’s what it’s really about.  That night, though, we were talking again about how badly we sometimes want those weekends back.

As we talked, we began to dissect this problematic concept.

As Christians, and not just in title but as truly Bible-believing, on-fire-for-God kind of Christians, we knew that we shouldn’t be wistful about the times of reckless abandon and poor choices.  We began a back and forth about how our hearts pull at these desires, even though we are secure, and at peace in our security.  We even know that those desires are counter-productive to said security.

So we began to dissect it all.

And I do believe we got to the bottom of it.

Do any of you remember the wisest man who ever lived?  His name was Solomon.  So of course you won’t actually remember him, because he was around a really long time ago, but you probably know who I’m talking about.  Most people, even those with no religious ties or affiliations, could suggest that Solomon (or at least, “some guy from the Bible”) was the wisest man who ever lived.  Just the fact that we are still talking about him lends itself to the statement.  Back in his day, people came from all over the world to listen to what he had to say.  [Nowadays, people try to say that Solomon wasn’t all that.  That people in Egypt were saying the same things that Solomon was saying.  What we fail to realize, though, is that those rulers from Egypt were traveling to listen to Solomon, and then referring to his teachings in their own writings.]

I mention this ancient man because even in those ancient days he spent most of his life following goosebumps and good times.  You can see what he means when he says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  When his time was drawing to a close he began to panic a little bit.  And he wondered how it was possible to panic: he was the wisest man who ever lived, the absolute richest, and he had probably done everything that there was to be done (he was married to one thousand women, for starters).

Solomon began to realize that God had set eternity in our hearts.

Who on this earth doesn’t want to live forever?  I mean, no one really wants to die.  Oh, sure, there are people who think that it is preferable to being alive, but they would easily trade death for a life of peace.  We all just want peace.

The very ebb and flow to everything reveals that there is a purpose.  You see, the cyclical balance to life is the proof that there is purpose.  Rain waters the plants, which evaporate the rain back into the clouds, which will rain back down on them again and cause them to grow.  Birds drop seeds as they fly, which grow into vegetation that will feed the birds, who will drop the seeds when they eat or take the food back to their homes, and more vegetation will grow.  Can you believe that if nature has a purpose, how much more so do we?

We need to talk about the big things of life, because life is big.  I mean, we’re talking about life here, people.  We are talking about us.  You and me and our families, our children, our grandchildren, our sisters and brothers and dearest friends and even Ulysses Yuletide who takes your order at Starbucks.  We need to talk about choices.  Did you know that it is now almost universally accepted that a fetus in-utero is a an actual, living person?  Unfortunately, it took some serious technology to get us this far, but there is now no denying that an unborn baby is just as alive as a newborn baby.  Even pro-choice accepts this dynamic; their stand persists in choice.

Okay.  I can work with choices.

What do our choices do, though?  Right?  Otherwise I wouldn’t care about the poor ones I’ve made, and I certainly wouldn’t care about what Solomon had to say about the poor ones that he’s made.  The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of people actually don’t care about their choices, not in a legitimate way.  I think it has to do with this prevailing idea that we only live once. YOLO, anyone?

If we only live one, then there comes upon us this insatiable drive to never stop experiencing.  It’s this obsession with not wanting to miss out on a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Do you see what I’m saying?  I’ve got to spend this money, I’ve got to go out while I’m young, I’ve got to take this trip, I’ve got to go deeper into debt, I’ve got to abuse my body, at the very least I’ve got to think about how I only live once and there is just so freaking much to do.  Even worse, there is so much I’m going to miss out on.  Am I right?  It doesn’t matter if we go to Ireland this year; next year we are going to want to go to Japan.  It doesn’t matter if we got our new leather jacket; next week we are going to get that fabulous pair of boots.

Did you know that you can only wear one outfit at a time?

I’m being serious.  It doesn’t matter how many pairs of clothes you have, you can only wear one at a time.  Said what?  It’s true.  It really is.  How about this: the less clothes that you own, the less laundry you will have to do.  Remember my big schpiel about laundry, and about how our choices are like laundry, and how we will inevitably have to take them all out and handle each piece?  And sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we scrub, we’ve still got a spaghetti stain in the middle of our favorite shirt.

We all want to live forever.

I’m not going to lie.  It is a downright sacrifice to not do certain things anymore.  But it’s okay.  Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I need to.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, or like I’m missing out, I can rest in my convictions because I know that, in the end, I don’t need to accumulate those generic life experience.  I am completely secure in the fact that I may die one day, but I will absolutely live forever.

There is no urgency in me.  At least not when it comes to me.

I have happily made the trade.  It really, truly is a trade.  I have willingly, with all of my heart, traded in some of the more popular pastimes, the frantic YOLO mindset, in exchange for the care and security that only God can provide.  Even though I experience those twinges of nostalgia, the phantom itch, if you will, I have no worries.  I think about people living for their weekends, and the amazing parties, and I understand how they are feeling.  I felt that way before too.  Then I sigh, and feel some sadness, because when the rubber meets the road those people are on their own.  They have those deep-seated worries that come with being their own god.  Everything.  And I mean everything, is on their shoulders.  The goings-on in the world make no sense, the reality of bills that need paid are ever-present, the crossing of the fingers that the house won’t burn down, that you won’t get cancer…  These people are completely on their own.

So I breathe a sigh of relief.

Maybe I don’t have the kind of fun that pretty much everyone else is having, but I have peace.  My house can burn down and I know that I will be provided for.  I could get cancer, but I know my place in eternity is secure.  This is what I have traded for, and I am good with it.  I am more than good with it.  I am so, so, so grateful.