Inventory at Wade Hampton Hardware Store was my first regular paid job. it was during Christmas break of my ninth grade year at Wade Hampton High School. Heyward Greene and Otis Wright, owners of Wade Hampton Hardware, hired me to help take inventory that December. They were testing me. Evidently I passed because they hired me for the remaining four years of high school, Christmas and summer help. That first inventory involved a life lesson I'll never forget. I learned that problems should be weighed and not counted. Here's how it happened---
On the first day of inventory Herman Freeman, a long time employee of the
hardware store, told me to inventory the nails. They were displayed in twelve large
metal bins, huge containers of loose nails. Each bin held a different sized nail,
from the smallest (2d) to the largest (40d). There were literally thousands of
them. Herman told me to count them. Being the youngest and the newest kid on the
block I sat and started counting them, one by one. In a few minutes Mr. Greene
came by and asked what i was doing. I told him I was taking inventory of the nails.
That's when he laughed, said someone was having some fun with me, and told me
to weigh them. He said, like many problems in life, nails were too numerous to
count. Instead, they should be weighed.
Fifty plus years later that lesson still works. It's because life is hard, problems are many, and we can be overwhelmed when they number the stars in heaven or sands on the seashore. When we take the time to really weigh them, that is, give them some deeper thought, we discover that most are actually light-weight irritants rather than heavy burdens. Sometimes an inventory helps us get the weight thing in context.
Personal inventory is a spiritual discipline. Taking stock of life, faith, blessings, and yes, troubles is necessary at times to scale mountaintops or deal with valleys. This is especially true when the world around us is glowing and we're in a dark time. Any number of problems can become those weights that change our motion---relationships, financial stress, unmet expectations, disappointments, something as simple as a bleak day, temptation, or a routine out of kilter. When things are low, it's time to take personal inventory. Several of my favorite verses about a personal spiritual audit are---
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not
recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail
2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD.
Lamentations 3:40, ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart, Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24, ESV
Scripture also provides clarity in dealing with the results of our inventory times. The clearest principles are those associated with relational stress, what constitutes much of the difficulty we encounter in life. However, in my opinion, developed over 35 years of leading congregations, these ideals can carry-over to other areas of personal stress as well. For example----
1. We should weigh stress to determine if we should respond to it.
How often do we have conflict with other people over inconsequential
matters? When we weigh our troubles with others we may find that it's really
minor. In that case, Scripture advises that we overlook some offenses---
A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a
Proverbs 19:11, ESV
Some worrisome issues are insignificant. We should fugedaboudit.
2. Restoration should be the object of dealing with inventory issues.
Jesus spoke about personal relationships and offenses on several occasions.
The most repeated in Matthew 18:15-17. Consider what Jesus said regarding
our response to people in offensive situations---
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him
alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not
listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be
established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to
them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let
him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
The lesson for life beyond relationships in this passage is two-fold: one, we
should be proactive in settling our own personal inventory issues, and two, the
outcome should always be restorative.
3. Personal humility must guide all human relationships.
Many Scripture passages express God's response to those who are humble
and those who are prideful. A particularly profound word from Peter always
touches me in this regard----
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God
opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves,
therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may
1 Peter 5:5-6, ESV
Humility must also characterize us when we are doing a personal spiritual
inventory. Without humility we may overlook something notable in our
character that is causing our down time.
Of course, an audit of my personal life should examine the spiritual disciplines that surround my days----prayer, Bible study, fellowship, worship, service, stewardship, and witness. We should also count our blessings and name them one by one. I mean, weigh your troubles, but count your blessings. You'll be lifted and encouraged when you discover how numerous they are.
Take a moment. Inventory your spiritual life. Slip some troubles to the side because they're not worth the worry. Make corrections aggressively and in order to restore your spiritual vibrancy. Count your blessings. And, in all things, be humble.
This inventory may mend what seems to be a broken Christmas.