Over the last few months, I have been spending a lot of my spare time at my house sorting. When we moved into the parsonage two years ago there were plenty of boxes that I just didn’t have the time or energy to sort through and so they got stuck in various closets, in the basement, and the garage. When we learned we were expecting a child this summer, however, I knew it was time to start making decisions about the stuff in those boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day in a long while.
I started in the room that will soon become the nursery. I told myself, “go through one or two boxes each day.” That felt like a manageable goal. But as I started to pull things out of the closet, I got kind of possessed by the process, and I made it through the whole closet in one evening. It was surprising to me as I tend to be quite sentimental about my possessions. All the times my mom made me go through boxes and drawers and bins as a kid, I absolutely despised the process. I just figured it would be no different this time around. After all, I had been dreading it so much that I had opted to drag many of these boxes across the country for various moves over the last decade, instead of sorting their contents.
As I sat on my living room floor and sorted the items into piles—keep, dispose, donate—I was surprised at how good it felt, and by how much I was willing to part with. The sentiment associated with the items was still there. Each notebook brought back exciting memories of college classes, each souvenir t-shirt brought back fond memories of family vacations, each trinket brought back giggly memories of childhood birthday parties, each report card brought back warm memories of beloved teachers. And yet, something was different this time around. Even though those good memories were there, I was able to let go of much of these things that I had been storing for so long.
I realized what was different—me. This time I wasn’t just sorting to make my life lighter, or to fit into a smaller space, or to appease my mother, or to purge things that no longer had a use to me. This time I was sorting to make space for someone else—someone new—to physically accommodate this huge change that was about to occur. These things I had been storing—they were all about me. Yes, they were important things about me, part of the story that shaped me, relics of the things I was taught to value, influential in my identity, part of what made me, me. But as I pulled items out of boxes and thought about this new life that would be joining our family, it didn’t feel so necessary to keep those items around anymore. Suddenly I was able to acknowledge the goodness of these things, understand that my identity was not going to vanish if this stuff was no loner stacked in my closet, and feel joyful about creating space for something—someone—more than me.
Change is hard no matter what the circumstances, but I’m finding that it’s easier to let go of the past, even the beautiful, meaningful, identity defining things – when I realize it’s to make space for new life. I think this is true in the church too. It’s sad to see the events for which we have fond memories fade away. It’s scary to let go of ministries for which we have worked long and hard. It’s tough to remember that our purpose won’t vanish and our identity won’t become untethered as we change and physically make space for the Spirit to do something new, to bring in someone new, to continue to fill us with joy as space is being created for more than us.
Pastor Megan finds that she rarely has all the right answers, but tries to help her community ask better questions.