An advertisement for a writer's retreat.

When I entered the University of Georgia as a 17-year-old freshman back in 1969, I was assigned a small basket in a huge locker room that served the physical education department. I also paid for and was issued a sturdy combination lock to keep my regulation UGA T-shirt and gym shorts (very short) secure when not in use.

I quickly memorized the combination: 14-46-12, and can still recite it 41 years later — as I can the I.D. number I was assigned for the posting of grades. I was student F9132. Why I can remember those numbers but cannot recall why I opened the refrigerator remains a mystery to me, but I’ll not chase that rabbit today.

The rabbit I’m after is the lock, because not only did I remember the combination, but I still had the lock and the little tag that came with it. It was a good lock, and I never knew when I might need it, so I kept it.

So, when Samuel’s P.E. class started a few weeks ago, and he remembered on the night before class that he needed a combination lock, I was prepared. I bequeathed him my college combination lock, briefed him on its illustrious history, emphasized its all-metal quality, and asked him to take good care of it.

It lasted all of three weeks before he said “I don’t know what happened to my lock. When I went to my locker today, it was gone.” He insisted that he had left it in the locked position, but neither he nor the gym teacher could imagine what had happened to it.  

Apparently, the lock I’d held on to for 41 years finally reached its expiration date and simply vaporized, perhaps dissolved by the stinky and humid air of the boys’ locker room. 

It bothered me at first, but then I realized that it was just a lock despite any sentimental value it carried, and it made for one less uneeded thing in my desk drawer. Perhaps I should also loan Samuel my old slide rule, a couple of protractors and compasses, some Cross pens still in the gift boxes, and a few other odds and ends that clutter the same drawer. I’d never see them again, and that would probably be a good thing. 

We’re rapidly approaching Ash Wednesday, a time when we typically think about things that are cluttering up our lives, things we could do without, things we might consider giving up as a way of remembering and honoring Jesus. 

Perhaps it’s a good time to sort through the junk drawers of our lives?

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