“The Paper Chase” and the kingdom of heaven

A drawing of The Paper Chase store on the Decatur, GA Square

A drawing of The Paper Chase (bottom right) baseball card shop in Decatur, GA I used to frequent as a child.

The Paper Chase was across from the Decatur Square in Atlanta.  It really was my “happy place” for a portion of my childhood.  Though gone now, it was the largest, best baseball card dealer in the city at the time.

My sister Becky took ballet right down the street.  Seeing that I was too young to be left alone, I had to go along for the ride.  The Paper Chase made what could have been torture into something I looked forward to.

Mom and Becky would land at the ballet studio.  I would walk up the hill and be in baseball card nirvana.  Box after box of baseball cards were there to search for hidden treasures in the form of cardboard pictures of baseball stars, past and present.

The best thing about this was that my friends did not have the consistent access to the Paper Chase as I did.  I knew all the players they liked.  If could get some of these cards, then I could trade them for some of their more coveted cards.

For instance, my friend Darren loved the Philadelphia Phillies.  If I could secure the Phillies cards he wanted, then I could get his Ricky Henderson card which I desperately wanted.

Since I was maybe 8 years old at the time, I had virtually zero net worth.  Any money I came across was a result of begging parents, mowing yards, selling lemonade, or guilting my teenage sisters into giving me some of theirs.

Additionally, my Mom was not stupid.  She would always make sure I didn’t have money in my pockets before going into my favorite store.  It would have been virtually impossible for me to walk out of the Paper Chase with money.  Impossible.

As a result, I had a “Paper Chase method” of operations.  When I came across a baseball card which I wanted, I simply hid it deep in an obscure stack of cards in the corner of the store.  My hope was that when I returned the next week, hopefully with a little money, the card would still be available for purchase.

It worked most of the time.  To this day, I can tell you where to find the Ricky Henderson card I got from Darren as a result of this method.  It is in a box in my parent’s attic.

This morning I read Matthew 13:44.  It is from Christ Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I thought of my Paper Chase days in Decatur as I read this passage.  Whenever I found a “treasure” in the form of a desired baseball card, I would literally hide it, do everything I could to wrestle up the needed resources, acquire it a week or so later, and leave the Paper Chase in abject joy.

I thought about Tracey and the brevity of life as I read this passage.  I am convinced I have found the kingdom of heaven through the person and work of Christ Jesus.  I would stake my life upon this reality.  However, rarely does my life exhibit the same type of intentionality which EITHER I did as an 8 year old when my pursuit was merely baseball cards OR the man that buys a field.

Lord Jesus, may I simply live my life making the kingdom of heaven my priority day in and day out.  I confess that this is rarely the case.  May I truly “sell everything with joy” in pursuit of You and Your kingdom.  Please grow me in this area.

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Comments

  1. Phil says

    The Paper Chase. Wow… great memory. I didn’t go there too many times, but I remember how stoked I would get after a good find at a couple of the other card stores in town (Art Moods near North DeKalb Mall, and the card store at Greens Corner).

    That is a great illustration to shed light on that passage and this idea. And a convicting illustration from the way you present it.

    • John Gunter says

      Yeah, going old school on this one. Man, would love to take a walk around the old Paper Chase for posterity sake. Don’t know how long it has been gone. It could never afford the rents that area demands now.

  2. HS says

    Thanks for sharing.

    Moses’ prayer, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” came to mind as I read your words. Praying with you for a heart of wisdom.

  3. Iulia says

    Reading your thoughts is always inspiring, you know, because of their honesty and transparency, it’s like reading someone’s diary. Don’t laugh, but reading your blog changed me :) I feel a bit more comfortable now to write more openly on my blog.

    And it’s also fun to read your writing, especially when you write about memories, I like it very much, it gives me happy wrinkles.

    About the treasure and the Kingdom of Heaven, I have read a line that says: Before you enter heaven, heaven must enter you (it sounds better in Romanian). I am also striving to love God above anything else and I fail every day. But, I have hope that I will get there and the “click” that put me on that path was seeing God’s goodness in my life every day. It truly is like in Romans 2:4 (…the goodness of God leads you to repentance).

    And I believe that there are prayers that God answers to instantaneously, so He is already growing you (and all of us who want it) to “sell everything with joy”.

    • John Gunter says

      As always, thanks for your encouragement and kind words, Iulia! So glad to know that something in my writing has helping you in your own writing endeavors.

      Yeah, it’s fun to try to integrate past experience with present day learning. It’s been a very helpful process for me personally.

      Thanks and have a great week!

  4. patrick says

    So your parents were the ones running the gang of 8 year olds while mowing lawns? Were they also running the gang of 6 year olds cleaning gutters?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. . .