It haunted me for decades. For even years after leaving home to strike out on my own, I knew that it was still there just waiting for me to deal with one day. The last time I had looked in it I was almost overwhelmed, in fact. Three feet high and almost two feet wide, it weighed approximately 520 pounds, including 110 pounds just for the wooden staves and metal bands that bravely held it all together.
Inside, it was crammed to the breaking point with all of my dad’s old stuff… books, Navy items from World War II, clothing, letters and notes, pictures of people I did not know, checkbook registers and calendars, souvenirs from all around, or in short, the precious memories of a lifetime.
All of which promised to make it a daunting emotional and physical task indeed when after Dad’s death and Mom’s move to a retirement community, it came time to sell the house in which they had lived for almost fifty years and to empty out all of its contents, including that barrel in the closet in the garage.
What a surprise thus when I finally mustered up the nerve to deal with it, pried open the lid and discovered that it was completely empty. For sometime before he died, my dad apparently tackled that task himself, disposing of everything in it as he wished. Which meant that quite literally for years I had worried about something which was never going to be a real problem at all.
I wonder, however, how many of us do that in other areas of life. For it’s easy indeed to fixate on a future that will never actually come to pass. Maybe that’s why Jesus once told us “not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6.34). He even pointed to the birds and observed that in spite of not storing away things in barns (or barrels) our heavenly Father still takes care of them. And just in case we didn’t get the idea, he posed a question of faith to all those who were listening to Him that day: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
It’s no doubt important to be prudent in times like these, taking whatever precautions seem appropriate in a season of sickness and separation. But taking care ought never to be confused with indulging in catastrophic predictions of what might be, but probably never will. For sometimes when you finally confront the barrel in your life, you find out it’s been empty all along.
And if you listen closely, you may even hear a faint voice from somewhere beyond saying, “I told you I had this.”