"I Had a Whole Pack of Gum in There"

It was 1994 and my family and I were in Angola, Indiana.

After receiving what sounded like an urgent message from my auto mechanic back home, I called him from our motel room.  "What's up, Dean?" I asked.

He said “It’s about your van.”

I had taken our Toyota van to him for minor service before we left so I guessed that the repairs were going to be more costly than he had estimated.  

"Ok", I waited... For some reason it was taking him a while to get to the point.

“The van ... it's uhh . . . gone.”

“Well.  Gone.  Where'd it go?”

“Uhh...it burned up last night.  It caught fire in the shop and we barely got it pushed outside in time.  It's gone.”


I hung up the phone and broke the news to my wife and children.  Our youngest son Nathan took it the hardest.  His grief was almost immeasurable.  "I had a whole pack of gum in there" he said wistfully.  We all burst into laughter, our mood lightened for a familial moment.  

What is not so amusing is that most of us (even believers) are not aware of the materialism inside us.  In those nine words, Nathan captured the essence of Lot’s wife when she looked backed at Sodom. In both instances, regret for personal loss diminished their worldview.

Somewhere in there, beyond the potluck haystacks and The Old Rugged Cross are huge piles of debris in our hearts.  Material things have a way of capturing our affection if we don’t take deliberate steps to keep our affections locked onto eternal things.  It helps me to periodically ask myself, “What is permanent and what is temporary?”  In other words, that which is eternal is permanent, and that which is temporal is temporary (2 Corinthians 4:18). 

So, temporary things can become an enemy of permanent things.  Or temporal values war against eternal values.  Another word for that is materialism.  What are some temporal things?

Placing a high priority on:

  • Possessions
  • Position
  • Pursuits
  • Power
  • Personal goals

If I place a high priority on any of the above items, and don’t have time for a relationship with God, and others, I am a victim of temporary values.  I am also setting myself up for personal failure because—if I can’t open my heart to God, I will never open it to another person.

Our whole culture is saturated with materialism.  Very seldom do we see a couple really committed to emotional connected-ness with each other, or with God.  In our world, I see a lot of individuals emotionally giving themselves to their desires & goals, desiring to be financially free, but very seldom do we see a couple that are really committed to their relationship with God, and to each other.  Our focus is on our rights, my needs, and my goals.

A self-focus on the reasons that I want to live, rather than caring about people or about a spouse who wants to be loved will lead to deep emptiness.  Many husbands & wives come to the place in their lives where they don’t feel loved at all by their spouse.  Some church members feel unappreciated and unconnected to the Body of Christ, thus they try to fill the void with temporary things.  It's far better to look up towards heaven and say “I need you.”  “Help me find my way.”  He will!

Try this sometime.  When you go home tonight (if you are married), ask your spouse “0-100% how much do you feel loved by me?”  Now, be careful when you ask that question, because you might get a 1%.  A couple years ago I heard of a -30%. I don’t know where that is on the scale—below zero I guess.

In answer to this, many husbands might say “I love my wife, what do you mean!?  I’ve provided for her, I’ve done everything financially for her, what more could she want!?”   A wife could say “Of course I love my husband, I’ve put up with him for 25-years.  I’ve washed his socks and cooked supper for him lots of times, when I wasn’t out with the girls.”

The problem is many people focus on their goals and not on a relationship.  Our whole culture is programmed wrong!  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, you and I cannot serve God and money at the same time.  Let me say this.  It’s impossible to have two emotional connections at the same time.  Impossible.  That leads to doubled-mindedness and you know what double-mindedness leads to.  Yeah.  Instability.

Husbands love your wives.  She wants that more than a 5,000 ft² house.  Take time to connect with her spiritually and emotionally.  Wives, respect your husbands.  Submit your spirit to a relationship with your husband, and don’t put temporary things between you.  When both of you seek a relationship with God and with each other, you will be one in a thousand.

In Philippians 3, Paul says “For me, living is…Christ.”  I’d like to ask you a question.  What is living for you?  Your personal goals, or your relationship with God and others?

A good relationship with God and others is way better than a pack of gum.  And those proper relationships will never burn up. 

They will last forever.