“Be very careful with that vase, you know who it belongs to, right?” I asked my 6-year-old daughter as her tiny fingers traced the delicate hand painted flowers on the pink glass.
“Your great-grandmother!” she replied, already knowing the answer.
“Yep, the one that you’re named after and it’s very special to me, just like you,” I said as I returned to the sink of dishes I was working on.
I’d barely finished wiping off the first plate when I heard it the vase hit the floor and shatter.
A sting of momentary devastation… that’s the only way to describe the feeling that surged through my body, but I knew I couldn’t let it show on my face. I’d been waiting too long for this moment. It was finally my chance to pass down one of the greatest lessons that my grandmother had ever taught me.
I remember standing in her kitchen, moss green linoleum beneath my feet. I was helping her set the table for a special occasion. I can’t remember if it was a holiday or just a family birthday party, but I knew it was important because she’d brought out her mother’s dishes. As I tenderly cradled each plate and walked them over to the table she talked about how special these pieces were to her; how she remembered her mother always setting the nicest tables and making everything seem so luxurious even when the family’s budget was anything but. The last piece she handed me was a small porcelain gravy boat. She told me to be extra careful with it because it was one of a kind and could not be replaced. I don’t know if it was hearing those words that caused my hands to shake so badly I lost my grip. I know I’d never tried to take better care of anything in my life, yet there it lay on the floor in a dozen broken pieces.
I just stared down at it until my eyes were so full of tears that I had to look up to keep them from dripping onto the floor, and that’s when I saw my grandmother’s face staring back at me with the warmest and most loving smile I had ever seen. How was she not mad? Why was she not yelling? I opened my mouth to ask her but all that came out was a long wail of despair. I had never felt worse about myself then in that moment. And without missing a beat she walked over to me, took me up in her arms and told me, “It’s just a thing. Things are not as important as people, and I don’t want you to waste one more minute feeling bad about a broken thing. It’s not like I can take it to heaven with me anyway! You are what’s important.”
I never forgot that lesson. People matter, things do not. People we can take to heaven, things arealways temporary and Earthbound. Those words have gotten me through so many stages of life that most people aren’t able to navigate as easily. If tomorrow my house is gone and all the material possessions I cherish are destroyed, I know I will be okay because early on I learned not to invest my heart in the things of this world.
The sting left my body the second I remembered I’d been waiting years for this teachable moment. I took my daughter’s little face in my hands, wiped away the tears that were now streaming down her beautiful face and I told her, “It’s just a thing. Things are not as important as people, and I don’t want you to waste one more minute feeling bad about a broken thing. I liked that vase, but I love you, and it’s not like I can take it to heaven with me anyway! You are what’s important.”
“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.” –Matthew 16:19-21
When’s a time you’ve seen scripture put into action like that? Have you been able to bring the Word alive in teachable moments with your loved ones? Leave your story below in the comments!