My dad’s old Amish shed sat unopened for many years. During that time, ivy grew up its northern wall and around the ground outside of it. Several holes appeared in its roof allowing rain to invade and rot the interior of the building. A rose planted in one of its raised beds began to resemble the demonic thorn bush Maleficent magically grew to prohibit Prince Philip from reaching the sleeping beauty, Aurora. A flowering shrub was planted to balance the rosebush on the front of the building and grew into a small tree. Groundhogs and rabbits and snakes and spiders and ants took up residence within its walls and beneath its plywood floor. A volunteer tree grew beside the building's south side in seeming sympathy – to keep it company and to shade it from the afternoon sun.
The contents within it had been suspended from use. Some of dad’s tools hung from sheets of pegboard mom asked to be attached to its walls. An old metal desk which I had used during my stint as a teacher at a local Christian school had been shoved in one corner. I had thought it would be useful for planning garden layouts and potting plants and any number of other reasons. Orphaned books from my overcrowded library had been stacked in another corner.
Remnants of older generations had been deposited within its walls as well. My grandparent’s old console floor radio. My grandad’s old Kentucky-style, walk-behind, wheel cultivator. An old copper kettle and stirring paddle in which many seasons worth of apples had been reduced to countless jars of apple butter. A cornucopia of the old and discarded. Unwanted treasures abandoned to a dilapidated shack.
In short, it was the perfect picture of one of life’s most dangerous conditions.
The building is now demolished. Some of its more ancient contents have found new homes. My grandparents copper kettle now sits inside my garage. The rest has been transported to a local recycle center. Final destination – unknown.
I stand at the vacant area now remembering the productive promise the building held when it was first delivered. Dad had purchased it as a place from which he could cultivate gardens in his retirement. Cancer decided his plans would not materialize. Mom’s death a year later would be the second strike against the shed’s productivity. I tried maintaining it along with the garage and the house, but memories and daily duties took me a different direction. Maintaining the shed soon proved to be too much – and so the shed became the victim of neglect.
Neglect – the failure to care for properly; the state of being uncared for. All of its verbal cousins are just as disheartening: disrepair, deterioration, disuse, dilapidation.
It makes me think of many aspects of my life. What have I failed to care for in my life? My family? My relationship with the Lord? My prayer life? My job? My relationships with others? With neglect comes a choice – continue to ignore or avoid the situation and let neglect continue to deteriorate. Or is it time for a change? “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” (Proverbs 8:33)
Maybe the suffering and stagnation in our lives is evidence of God’s trying to disciple us into better lives. Lives lived closer to Him. Lives devoted to doing what’s right – day in, day out. Lives aware of the lateness of the prophetic hour and determined to be actively presenting the Good News to everyone everywhere.
For me, neglect led to destruction. The building might have been rehabilitated, but at great cost and effort. And for what? Once again having a garden shed that I really had no use for? It was better to have had the structure demolished and move on than to have wasted money, time, and effort rebuilding something I didn’t need to have.
What I did learn was that neglect damages. Neglect destroys. Neglect seduces time into a very public tryst, but no one notices the indecent lovers until the damage is done. The greater the time, the greater the force of destruction neglect produces.
The lesson learned? Constancy is the enemy of neglect. No matter what, the more time invested in the things I value, the more I protect the things I value from neglect’s ruination.