My paternal grandfather, Myrle, liked to collect things. Growing up next door to him and my grandmother, Helen, I saw and heard first hand his love for auctions. There was many a Saturday when I would walk next door and my Grandmother would be home alone. When I asked where Grandpa was, she would most often say, "Oh, he's gone to another auction." Sometimes she'd add on, as she rolled her eyes, "and he took a trailer with him so who knows what he'll be bringing back with him." Sure enough, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, here would come my Grandpa, with the back of his truck bed full and the trailer full too.
Growing up I never paid close attention to what he'd bring home with him. Over the years I'd see a refrigerator or two leaning against the garage, or one day I noticed that a school bus that hadn't been there before was suddenly back behind the house.
Some days Grandpa would make a trip to the town dump and bring home something that had been thrown out. I'd be at Grandma's, munching on a snack and watching television with her when I'd notice a table or a clock or some other little something that wasn't there before. Again, when I'd ask Grandma where she got that "something" she'd roll her eyes and say, "your Grandpa got that out of the dump (or an auction) the other day."
Through the years, as the collection of refrigerators, tools, galvanized washtubs, and other auction items and dump finds grew, my family would wonder about the future when it would be time to sort through all of Grandpa’s treasures. What he did with all those "treasures" we wouldn't know until after he passed, but one particular item would be used many years later, to give me a picture of my Heavenly Father.
My cousin Cody was my first cousin on my mother's side. Although he was my cousin, he was born the same year I had my first child. He and my three children grew up together, and even though they only saw each other in the summer or at Christmas, they picked up right where they had left off at their last meeting. Theirs was a fun cousin relationship. Cody's bright orange hair with my blondies blended well whether they were coloring, swimming, or going on their annual jaunt to the water park.
Cody was killed in a car accident on August 20, 2007 just days before his 21st birthday. The pain of losing someone so young is a pain that many have experienced, and now my family is experiencing it. His parents, my uncle Brian and aunt Deedee are facing life without their only child in it. No daughter-in-law; no grandchildren. The pain is still raw, and a pain that those who are watching them experience can only stand around them praying prayers of healing over their broken hearts.
Myrle passed away January 12, 2008. My grandmother, Helen, had already gone home to be with the Lord in 2005. What our family had been anticipating for years was now coming to reality. Where to begin in cleaning out the "treasures." After weeks and months of going through piles and boxes and drawers and storage sheds, the list of Myrle's collection contained nineteen refrigerators (filled with nuts, bolts, and other miscellaneous items), twenty-eight galvanized washtubs, a hay wagon bed filled with Mason canning jars; there were rakes, shovels, yardsticks, the list goes on and on.
The auction was a two day event with Grandpa's treasures to go on Friday and the items inside the house on Saturday . Items from the garage, the sheds, and nineteen refrigerators were all lined up to be auctioned. To say that this auction was an anticipated event by folks from all around the west central Wisconsin area would be an understatement. The sale bill advertised, "Myrle was an avid collector and attended many auctions throughout his life. Plan for 2 full days. Many items not listed."
My uncle, Brian, told me that he had been looking forward to this "event" for twenty years. He was there bright and early the first day and I didn't see him until he had already wandered the property looking at the items up for bid. When he did come up to me he said, "How did your Grandpa get Cody's toybox?" I asked him what he meant and he replied, "I threw that toybox out probably fifteen or sixteen years ago. How did Myrle get it?"
No one knows when Myrle saw the toybox in one of his scavenger hunts at the dump. Was he there when Brian threw it out? Did he show up later the same day? The next day? Week? We don't know, but what we do know is that what Brian had thought was trash, and having seen it's purpose fulfilled he did what most modern day citizens do: he threw it out.
Myrle though, the scavenger of treasure, saw value in a tossed toybox. He pulled it out of the dump, brought it home, and it wasn't seen again for fifteen or sixteen years. We don't know what my Grandpa had in mind when he pulled that toybox out of the dump. He had no way of knowing that the child who put his Tonka trucks and his "treasures" in it would be gone just a few breaths later. What did Myrle find special about that toybox?
Probably not much. As packrats, I mean collectors go, maybe he thought he would use it to put something in someday. But God knew what He would use it for a decade and a half later. He would use it to bring comfort to a hurting father. This hurting father took the toybox and brought it home. What will he do with it? Probably not much, maybe a lot. I hope when he looks at that toybox and thinks of the boy who once emptied it out and sat in it, that he also sees his Heavenly Father.
A Father who suffered the loss of His Only Son. Who mourned the same way Cody's Mom and Dad mourn. I hope when they look at Cody's toybox they realize the comfort they have from a heavenly Father who has experienced the same feelings they are experiencing. But mostly I hope that they, and those of us who are watching and praying them through this season, see a God who never sees any person as junk or without purpose. That God is the forever scavenger of dumps and auctions. He is looking for what the world labels as useless, used up. God sees the value, far beyond the value Myrle saw and placed on his treasures. God sees the value of a person, what we once were, what we are, and what we were created to be.
God takes our broken, worthless lives and cleans us with the blood of Jesus Christ, making us pure, valuable, and of great worth in His sight. Cody and Myrle are experiencing that complete and forever transformation with Jesus right now. We who are left here, we who believe with even the smallest amount of faith, we are being transformed into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, who saw us lying there in that dump, or put on the auction block without even a bid of two bits, stepped down and pulled us out and made us whole. His bid was His life and now we are His, the grandest Treasure of the Ultimate Treasure Hunter.
For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17