Collecting Past and Present

collectible trading cards - photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels

There’s a tiny games and hobbies shop off the highway near my house. I have to make at least one U-turn to find it. Even then, the only way to know I’m in the right place is to spot the very small and faded sign nestled in the grass outside the building.

It’s something of a winding hallway to get from the front door to the front desk. The staff seemed surprised to see me. I’m not sure if that’s how they react to all customers or if it was the sleeping three-year-old on my shoulder.

Either way, they had what I was looking for: packs of the new Disney Lorcana trading-card game. I tell myself I’m buying them for my Disney-obsessed kids. But I’m fooling no one—least of all my wife. I loved trading cards when I was growing up—Pokémon and the like—and apparently, I still love them.

Even while I was driving to that little store off the highway—the third of its kind I’d visited that day—I realized how silly I was being. I’m a 35-year-old man driving around the greater Baltimore area, looking for cards with Disney characters on them. And they were hard to find! I was really working to get my hands on these things!

But as I was driving, calling up shops, and researching the cards in the weeks and months leading up to that day, I was amazed at how familiar it all felt. If there’s a card-collector’s muscle, mine had pretty good memory. It was as though I was right back in elementary school, trying to track down the latest set of Pokémon cards. I thrilled at the chase, the excitement, and the mystery of what I might find and where. The only difference was that my mom was no longer making me look up numbers in a phone book.

Our spiritual life, I believe, is made up of patterns. We detect the Spirit at work throughout our stories, and we pay attention to how we have responded historically. In so doing, we begin to understand how our own vocation is unfolding.

Again and again in my life, for example, the Spirit has nudged me toward writing and storytelling. As I look back on my personal history, I can see those places where I responded positively and consequently found inner peace. In those moments when I ignored the Spirit’s nudge, I felt dry and empty. I needed to be writing.

There’s something in my weird card-game quest that’s illustrative of the Spirit at work too. The thrill of seeking and finding these little collectibles brought me back 25 years. I felt the same feelings and same excitement, though in a different context and with different people with whom to share that excitement. It was easy to fall back into old ways.

It’s easy to dismiss these feelings as simple nostalgia. But in so doing, we might be dismissing the Spirit at work calling our attention to our past. Is there something from 10, 20, 50 years ago that feels familiar now? Pay attention to it. Pay attention to where you encountered that feeling before.

My original card-collecting days were aimed at my own card-collecting glory. That was fine for a 10-year-old. But now, just maybe, I’m being invited to harness some of that same excitement for my children. Maybe I’m being asked to see how old ways can bolster new relationships.

So today, ask yourself, as I will: What patterns in my life is the Spirit inviting me to pay attention to?

Photo by Caleb Oquendo via Pexels.


  1. Thanks Eric for this fine piece of writing. Collecting Past and Present is a nice way to view and ponder over our on-going-ness in the safe company of the Spirit.


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