This last Sunday our church wrapped our up first ever Sock Drive. “What’s that?” you ask? Socks…yes regular tube socks. According to Union Gospel Mission in downtown Seattle, the single most requested item from the homeless or at-risk population is tube socks. Because without the ability to do laundry, once a person’s socks get wet they take off and dispose. Wet feet= cold night. Dry feet= more comfortable. Therefore, we have spent the last 4 weeks collecting socks.
As seemingly meaningless as socks, it was one small concrete thing our church could do to SERVE those who are hurting in our community. So we collected socks. And guess what? It was a smashing success. Lots and lots of socks came in. I started to count and lost count once I hit 150 pairs of socks.
Ironically, yesterday I was stuck home for a few hours with a sick baby and so I turned my attention on the seeming unending pile of unfolded laundry at our house. As a family of 5, the laundry never seems to stop. Seriously…you do a huge night of folding and before you know it, we’re back up to our armpits in the stuff. But yesterday it was the socks that stopped me and shamed me.
See we had a huge laundry bin of socks that I had foolishly volunteered to fold a month ago. My wife lovingly held me to that promise and so the socks have just sat there. Unfolded. For a very long time. Whenever someone ran out of socks in our house I would just yell, “check the sock basket! Make a pair! I’ll get to it!”
Yesterday I got to it. I spent half an hour folding socks. Dozens and dozens of socks. Then I put folded pair into everyone’s sock drawer. Child #1: sock drawer was already fairly full and I crammed the recently folded pairs in there. Child #2: Same problem but worse. Smaller drawer to begin with but once again, I filled the already full drawer of socks with another dozen socks. Child #3: same problem. Everyone in my house has a drawer FULL of socks. While we were collecting socks for people who have only the socks on their feet, my house is overflowing with them. Then the leftovers beckoned. There must have been 40 single socks that have lost their matching sock over the last 6 months and I was so sick of dealing with all these “singles” that I dumped in the garbage can. As I looked at all those single socks in the garbage can and reflected on sock drawers literally overflowing with clean and folded pairs, my heart sank. The reality is that for most of us, or at least for me, we have been blessed with so much stuff. While some go without…I’ve got overflowing sock drawers. And the realization of this felt terrible.
When I drove around the country in my 1984 Volkswagen Westfalia campervan I had everything I owned inside the van. Truthfully it would have fit into about a 4X4 box: a few pans, a sleeping bag and computer, some books and some clothes. For 6 months I lived in the van and had everything I needed. As I traveled and drove and saw the country and met people and experienced the world, I realized I didn’t need anything else. Stuff, the metaphorical “socks” of our life, can end up clogging our filters so that it gets harder and harder to experience God in the midst of managing stuff.
Back outside the house yesterday, staring at the bottom of the garbage can, I felt a growing dread. “Lord, how do I keep the socks of life from overwhelming me? “ I want to live a life more devoted to impacting others and serving Jesus than to collecting stuff and becoming a vain consumer of more and more and more. I confess, I don’t always succeed in this. But I recognize that at some level, we can’t serve two masters. “Follow me,” Jesus said again and again in scripture, and the call to Christ is a counter-cultural call to swear allegiance to a King born in a stable and not within opulent castle walls. It is easy in these days, whether raising kids or married or living alone, to start on the journey of life and end up collecting socks and end up overwhelmed with our material possessions.
So what’s the answer? Am I advocating going barefoot? Throwing everything away and moving my family of 5 into the same 84’ Westfalia? No, nothing that drastic. But I do think intentionality to live a life more purpose full than merely being a consumer is a good place to start. Stepping in small but concrete steps to reach out and give to the least of these is another good place to start. Embarking on a life that is more purposeful than just following the bright lights of our culture that teach and live by the motto ‘he who dies with the most toys wins.’ No, he who dies with the most toys is dead, and their life will be remembered more by their relationships, their service, and their following the true King, Jesus Christ, while “their toys” will just sit there and turn to rust.
As for me, I often fail on this but once again, I’m setting off on the journey of “less is more”. Thanks Jesus for the reminder.