I seem to have a problem getting rid of things.
In my basement garage, I have a storage cabinet that is reserved for just that. Often times, I will get an appliance, tool, home décor item, and in the box will be an extra part that is included for some situation that won’t really ever apply to me. For example, my refrigerator comes equipped with a drink dispenser on the front door with a water filtration system for that dispenser inside. The fridge came with a plug for that filtration system in case I ever want to not use it. Seeing that this plug is in some way invaluable to my life, I have stored it in my cabinet of requirement, you know, just in case. At some point, I might want unfiltered water.
When I first got married, I brought quite a lot of baggage with me, literally. I had several boxes of crucial belongings that were absolutely necessary to my life, things I couldn’t live without: old calendars that contained dates significant to my life, tattered movie posters of films I’d never seen, stuffed animals I’d won at middle school carnivals. My closets and storage rooms were filling up fast. As luck would have it, I married someone the opposite of me, someone who doesn’t like to look back or reminisce. So for her, if she hasn’t used it in the past year, out the door it goes.
Over the course of my marriage, my wife has helped me to slowly pry my fingers off my “treasures.” She started with garage sales, something I went along with because at least my stuff was being traded for money. However, she pulled a fast one on me, as when we finished setting up, she announced that everything now out of the house was not allowed back in the house. Once the sale was over, we curbside alerted the neighbors to our stash, a concept I was mostly okay with because at least my stuff was still being put to good use. However, once the garbage men came, it was goodbye to what I thought was invaluable.
And the funny thing is, I never ended up missing that stuff. So, I grew braver and started to get rid of more, and I quickly found that it was easier than I thought. In fact, there was a great deal of relief looking around at all the “found” empty space there now was. I had been holding on to those needless items so much so that I was mired in the past, unable to move forward, and quickly running out of room for what the future held.
The same can be said for how we needlessly hold onto unpleasant memories and pain. Like my possessions, when I have a stressful situation, I am someone who holds onto that moment, reliving it over and over in my head, with each replay being just as painful as that initial encounter. Last week, I noted that it’s just me that’s holding onto those moments when they happen in my life. At work, I was recently reprimanded for a small matter, and I had been running that moment through my head continually since. Yet, when I ran into this person a few days later, it was clear that she had moved on and was no longer thinking about it. I was the one stuck in that moment, not her, and I was the one that was continually punishing myself, not anyone else. By holding onto it, I had made it a much bigger deal than it was.
Christian author C.S. Lewis said that, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” When we run these painful experiences in our collective heads, we are neither moving past them nor healing. If we want a wound to heal, we have to stop touching it. Holding on to these needless items doesn’t help us to grow and prepare for the future: it keeps us mired in a stressful past. We have to learn to let go and look ahead. Proverbs 4.25-27 tells us to, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Whereas looking away and back to the past causes our feet to stray, if we keep ourselves fixed on the future ahead, we stay on the path of goodness. We then maintain a forward momentum of growth and movement, keeping us firmly on the path laid out for us by God.
So how can we let go and move forward? First know that reasoning out and thinking about the pain or that moment isn’t healthy. We tend to think about it repeatedly because our mind is trying to get control of a past situation, which is of course impossible. The key is to give up trying to control what we can’t control. Let God take over what we cannot. One way to do so is through meditation and prayer, fixing your mind on things that are good, beneficial, and holy. Spend time sitting quietly, allowing your mind to consider thoughts that build you up, releasing what it is that’s holding you down and keeping you in the past. And this most likely won’t cure you in one sitting. Since that pain is so visceral, your brain has rewired itself to focus on it. So, repeated, scheduled prayer and meditation will recondition your mind towards the proper path that God has in store for you. It will take some effort on your part, but it will help you become unstuck from the past. With the right amount of time and dedication, you’ll be able to let go of those painful items that you’ve been pointlessly carrying around with you, and with your lightened load, you will be ready to receive the blessing that God is ready to give you. Amen.