The sun rises brightly in the blue sky of early spring. It is the day that my house of nearly thirteen years gets listed with the realtor. It has been a great undertaking to get the house ready to sell due to the accumulation of stuff, and the minor repairs from the wear and tear of day to day life. As the sole owner of the home, and the only one actually living there, much of the hard work has fallen on my shoulders, even as others offered their time to help.
Through the clean-out process, there were many who offered their advice on how best to address the “stuff” in my house. Some encouraged me to just start boxing things up to get rid of them, either into a dumpster or to a second-hand store. What I soon discovered was that cleaning out without discernment meant throwing away the past life that I had with my husband and our family. A fair amount of my “stuff” had emotional value attached to it. To merely box it up and give it away, or to throw it in the trash would not work for me.
Some of the things that our family has given away has been really hard. You see, my late husband was a woodworker. Nearly every year for Christmas, he would make a wooden toy, artistic piece or practical furniture item for the kids. Every few years I would receive a hand crafted gift, as well. These treasures have been very hard to part with. I remember the time and love my husband put into choosing what to make, carefully crafting the items, and then the unveiling to the kids and myself. He always did so with such pride and joy, hardly able to contain himself as we opened each of his creations.
In the midst of the long weekends of going through the items in the house, my daughter wisely shared her perspective. She proclaimed that the gifts from her dad had served their purpose for the appointed time. Now, she shared, was the time to pass them on so others could enjoy the workmanship of the wooden designs. And, she is right, of course, and my mind knows this. The trouble with letting go is that it is taking my heart a lot more time to catch up.
Another approach suggested to me was to get a storage unit and move my “stuff” there in order to sort and discern at a later time. I immediately knew this was not the answer, either. By doing the deliberate work of sorting and letting go while still in the house, was critical to my ability to move on, both from the house and from all the “stuff” I no longer needed.
It reminds me of the parable that Jesus told about the rich farmer. He had a year of abundant crops. The man decided to tear down his barns and build new larger ones. He said to himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.” God called the person “a fool” because the very night all was safely secured in the barns, the man died. (see Luke 12: 16-21)
Jesus also talks about earthly treasures in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6: 19-21. “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them, and thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourself in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Of course Jesus is correct in both passages. “Stuff” will not make a difference in heaven. And letting go of “stuff” frees up resources and time to be generous with those who are in need. I have also discovered that letting go also helps open the space in my heart to receive intangible things from others, instead of dealing with the “stuff” I have accumulated.
Letting go of the past, and the “stuff” associated with it, is a process with an unspecified time-frame. Some of the decisions about things need more time than the constraints of house showings and closing dates will allow. As a result, I have boxes at my new place that still need more discernment about keeping or moving on. I have cut myself some slack because I need more time to release some of my things. I hope to be diligent so that a couple years down the road I don’t discover dusty boxes that still need to be addressed. I pledge to myself that I will continue to go through boxes and let go as I am able, in order to simplify my life.
Simplifying my life means purging some of the “stuff” that has been meaningful in the past but is no longer so. It frees up space in my home. It also frees up my heart space for growing in my relationship with Christ and with others. For me the relationships with Christ, family, and friends are more important than my “stuff” will ever be. So, I will be intentional about letting go of that which is holding me back from a richer life of love and relationship.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
So I ask you, dear one, what things are you holding tightly to that need to be let go? Where in your life do you have too much “stuff” and not enough Christ and other significant relationships? I invite you to look around and start the process of letting go of those things that are holding you back from life-giving relationships, especially with the Lord. Take some time to read Luke 12:16-21 and Matthew 6:19-21. Explore how Jesus’ teachings might be able to provide some perspective for your life, as they have for mine.
LET US PRAY
Creator God, You have provided all I need to live, and yet I am constantly trying to acquire more “stuff” that I think I want. Help me to discern what to keep, what to move on, and when to get more. Show me the way through the difficult and emotional process of letting go. Amen.
ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR
Mother, daughter, grandmother, friend, pastor- these are all words that identify who I am. In September of 2017 I received a new word to describe myself, and that is widow. Even so, I do not let that term define me. While my husband’s unexpected death rocked my world, I have sought ways to find joy in the day to day life where I now reside. I have been blessed with family and faithful friends who make the difficult days much more bearable. Nearest to me are my 3 grown children and their significant others who continue to bless me with their love and support. My 2 young granddaughters keep me engaged and young as I explore the world from their vantage points.
When I am not serving as a chaplain at an area hospital or writing, I enjoy walking my dog, biking, kayaking, hanging out with family and friends, or traveling. (And the occasional Hulu or Netflix binging) I am most content when I can be outside enjoying hikes in the woods or sitting around a campfire with friends. It brings me great joy to be able to create authentic relationships with people no matter where they are in their faith journey. Writing and chaplaincy provide great opportunities for this ministry. You can read more about my journey of grief at my blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com