The auctioneer held up a piece of Red Wing Pottery. It was a stoneware bowl made early last century, and my husband's family name in dusky blue letters appeared on its smooth gray sides. It was an appreciation piece given to customers who traded at his great-grandfather's small-town store. Now these crocks and bowls are rare collectibles. They were sensible and heavy, ready for making cheese and sauerkraut in the farm kitchens of Norwegian and German immigrants. His grandfather kept several, and over the years he would say, "When I die these will be yours." I loved our inheritance.
Three hundred bidders stirred with interest as the auctioneer shouted: "This piece of history is in perfect condition made by the famous Red Wing Company. Who'll start the bidding? Who wants this bowl? Who'll start at twenty? Who'll give me twenty?" I held up our number. "Five, five, five, gimmee twenty-five." A large woman in a paisley dress nodded. The auctioneer jumped to forty. A man to my right lifted his finger. Ninety. One hundred. Two hundred. My rage rose with the numbers. Finally it was me against the man with the finger. Could I cut it off? At last, I dropped my number. Defeated. My husband and I had agreed beforehand how much we could spend on buying back our inheritance, but its price had raced away like the shuttle burning out of Cape Canaveral.
They shouldn't have gone to auction in the first place. It was a story that began when my husband's grandmother died and his lonely grandfather remarried. It soon became clear that he had acted in haste and repented in leisure. She moved into his home, sold her own estate, and gave the money to her daughters. She and Grandfather had an agreement. If he died first, his home would be hers until she could no longer care for it and then it would go to his heirs. Her household went to her children, his household to his children. All verbal. Nothing official. Just dependent on good words and intentions.
But when Grandfather died, his wife quickly moved to sell the house and auction off the household. Without an official will, everything went to the auction block.
I watched the man who finally "won" move forward and claim the bowl. He took the other pieces as well. We didn't bother to bid again. We were no match.
There is a reason I keep remembering this. In Peter we read about our inheritance. It is an eternal one. He says it is "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven" for us (1 Peter 1:4). No one can steal it. No one can reconfigure and leave us out. Paul calls our inheritance glorious. Part of the meaning of glory is splendor. Great beauty. Magnificence.
I ought to know that my feelings for some pottery and a few thousand dollars are pretty paltry. Why can't I ignite as much anticipation for God's inheritance? Why can't I relax into joy and security because it is in God's immortal hands and not in the keeping of a second wife who was a character straight out of Flannery O'Connor? Though I often feel like a tug boat trying to make the jump to hyper-space, I must remember that this inheritance kept for us is life itself, real life as we have never known-healed life, good life, eternal life.
Shakespeare's Balthasar once sang a song for the ladies, but it seems to me that his advice can be universally applied:
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever, One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never: Then sigh not so, but let them go, And be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe, Into hey nonny, nonny.
So I let the pottery go. It's my own heart that deceives me into thinking it will never break. And that money we might have invested? It could just as easily be lost in the next corporate meltdown. Our home may catch fire in the next "controlled" burn. All I know and have could evaporate in a second. My heart must hold life loosely. The only thing I can count on is that glorious inheritance. Hey, nonny, nonny.