And so we collect. So much so that there are names for collectors of postcards (deltiologist), coins (numismatist), teddy bears (archtophilist), clocks (horologist) and others. We display them, dust them, explain them, and for some reason, our brains are happy knowing that they exist nearby.
My family members are experienced collectors, but arbitrary keepers.
While our grandmother never discarded anything given to her from her children or grandchildren, if you ever commented that you liked something she had made or purchased, she offered to give it to you. Every shelf and tabletop in their home displayed trite vacation souvenirs, school photos, Christmas gifts, and painfully unique items crafted during Vacation Bible School. These things were not negotiable; they could not be had. The quilts that she sewed by hand, the fried pies filled with fruit from their trees, the cake she’d just taken from the oven, were all things she did not keep. As soon as they were finished, they were given away.
For my mom, collecting meant a thick sock weighted by mercury dimes, buffalo nickels and wheat pennies, twisted at the top and secreted in a dresser drawer. On summer days in the ’60s, I borrowed from her stash for use in my blue Tom Thumb cash register when the cinderblock store was in full swing. At the end of the day, I meticulously wiped clean, then returned each coin to the white crew sock. The following day, I repeated it all again.
When my nephew was young, he collected “sets.” Whether it was a McDonald’s offering or a cartoon adventure series, he held the toys at bay until they were all present and accounted for. Seven out of eight was not complete in his demure little brain; the world was not right until all of the henchmen were on guard.
Jesus collected a different breed of henchmen. He assembled fishermen, politicians and IRS agents. He amassed poor, common and uncommon. He chose doubters, deniers, mild-mannered and feisty. He took them to mountains and hillsides, rooms and boats. He displayed His power through them, and followers became leaders, poor became enriched, and wealthy became benevolent.
But Jesus was a collector, not a keeper. When He was ready to divulge their divine mandate, He called them all together in one place. He had plenty to tell them, but, perhaps, He also wanted to see them all together as a team, as a set, once more. He knew that everything would soon change. He instructed them, blessed them, and then He let go of them.
He knew the price they would pay because He had chosen them. His Apostle, Paul, was led past Nero’s palace to the arena where he would be killed. In front of the arena stood a great statue of Nero, towering 110 feet into the air. His name was carved into the base: Nero— Conqueror. I wonder whether Paul’s thoughts journeyed back to a prison in Corinth where the Holy Spirit led him to write, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? ... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
Jesus’ reason was clear. He did not assemble disciples and apostles for pleasure or gain. Rather, it was to help Him bring order to a world of chaos. He sought to offer a solution for emotional insecurity, to fill a void that mankind could barely identify, much less heal.
Twenty-one centuries later, Jesus continues to collect followers. And He continues to let them go.