Thursday, December 15, 2011

Let Go

Ever so slowly over the last several years we let go of our things piece by piece. From renting our house to selling our house. From a giant storage area holding things we "need", to a smaller one, to using a tiny corner of borrowed space.  From keeping almost everything to keeping "just a few things".

Along with letting go of those possessions  came lessons that Haiti teaches by force ... Lessons on letting go of control and recognizing our need to die to our selfish ways. Those lessons are on-going and never-ending. We're fifth year seniors of those particular classes. 
The things that we held the longest were odd and were preserved for implausible reasons.  The giant dresser that matched nothing was kept because it was unique. The china cabinet, because it was a wedding gift. The bedrooms set purchased on Craig's list, because it was such a good deal. (This is an ay-uss backward approach born of some odd part of my Dutch heritage. In theory a person would be smart to hold onto something they paid A LOT of money for ... I like to hold on to things that were really good deals.  Who knows if another deal like that will ever come along?)  Finally the day came when it seemed silly to keep storing large pieces of bedroom furniture. 
In a storage locker north of the Twin Cities the remaining pieces of our past lives sit gathering dust in the cold. I haven't seen those things in three+ years.  If memory serves me right there are two boxes of photos and scrap books, one box of fancy flowery dishes you register for when you get married but don't often use, and many boxes of Christmas decorations. 
A few months ago our oldest daughter asked if she could have the Christmas decorations. I hesitated. I resisted. I felt protective, maybe even possessive.  I justified to myself, my friends, and Troy, "Those are the only things I have from that life, I need to go through it myself. I cannot just give it away."  They nodded in agreement.
Not one person (not even my daughter) questioned my need to keep the stuff in the dusty storage area. Even so, I felt like a jerk.  What does it mean that I want those to sit right where they are, I wondered. I don't know exactly what is there, why be possessive about unnameable items.  Why do I need it to stay where it is?

Those few boxes are my tie to the past.  The stuff inside them is not as important as what it represents. I don't know when I will get there to sort through it.  When I do, I'll probably feel selfish for insisting I do it myself. I may realize and need to admit that I was wrong to demand it remain untouched. I might uncover a lot of mildew-covered red and green decorations and cracked-up ornaments. I might come upon something that carries significance and stirs to the surface great memories. I'll likely find both.  Much has been stripped away since we left those things in Minnesota.  We've learned a lot of things about ourselves along the way. Holding on to those items is my last line of resistance. If I acquiesce and let those things go it means something ... I'm not even sure what.

Last night I read a post written by my uncle that resonated a bit.  A portion of that post is shared below. (Full post linked above)
By Rick Porter - 

(He is referring to change in the area he lives and grew up visiting - it is changing in the form of tearing down very old buildings.)

"The inhibitions to this change were many: tradition, economy, uncertainty about the future. But the sneaky one was emotion. Those cottages may have been junk, but they were our junk. Our older leaders, of which I am now one, remembered much joy in those buildings. For some, it was the joy of family memories. For me, the cottages were a delicious escape from interminable sermons to play cards and eat pizza with the director’s kids. Ahh…but, there I go again, savoring yesterday.
The proclaimer of the wisdom of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes said it quite plainly: “There is a time to build and time to tear down.” Even when applied to rickety, century-old structures, that can be a tough call. But applied to feelings and relationships and habits and wounds and grievances, it feels nigh impossible. What areas of my life are not worthy of the high privilege of life going forward? Is there anything destructive or hurtful to me or others with which I have become comfortable?
One of the surprises in beginning the demolition was how tough those old cottages were. It was as if they did not want to go away. They seemed to know that their roots were deeper than their foundations. God loves to do new things in and through people. To do so, He may ask us to give up some old things. It’s not easy, but He offers to help. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”
There is a time to build and time to tear down. Sometimes the tearing down must precede the building. The razing prepares for the raising. But we will have to let go of some of what is -  to experience what can be."