October Journal, Day 3: The View from the Back of the Shelf

In a market-driven economy like that of the United States, every aspect of life is touched (and often tainted) by the laws of the marketplace. Young capitalist entrepreneurs soon day-3learn that, in response to the question, “How much is an item or a service worth?” the correct answer is always, “Whatever the market will bear.”

A work by Picasso may be indistinguishable to my untrained eye from the multi-colored abstract painted by my nine-year-old grandson and displayed so proudly on our refrigerator door. But to those with market savvy, expiration-dateone is a priceless work of art and the other is not. The difference is determined by the market.

It has become clear to me (dare I say God showed me?) that my current status—which some have described as “on the shelf,” so far as active ministry is concerned—is directly attributable to the fact that I have little or no market value. I’m not “the next new thing,” and there is no cachet in identifying with me. Like an earlier version of the I-Phone, I am functional and have many sell-bygood features and years of reliable service left in me. I simply lack market value. The market has moved on.

I’m not being maudlin, nor am I fishing for comments like, “There, there, don’t be so hard on yourself.” It’s simply a fact. The rockier and more circuitous your pilgrimage, when combined with the inexorable realities of growing older, the faster you lose market value and the sooner you are regarded as no longer useful. In a retail setting, items with little market value are relegated to the back of the shelf and eventually discarded.

Unless—and herein lies my hope—they can be recycled.

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