Why do we hold on to outdated material in our lives? I am pretty sure that I’m not the only one who does this.
I think that perhaps I stuff things away that I think might be important, or might be needed again in the future.
I’ve made many moves in my lifetime. Why I drug some of the things I found around from one house to the other, I really don’t know. I guess we do it because when we move, we move boxes with us and shove them right back into storage without ever looking to see what’s inside.
I found letters and cards from friends I haven’t heard from in decades. I found the same from friends who have been dead for many, many years. I reread them and let them go.
I came across old love letters and poetry from my ex-husband when we were dating 40 years ago! Into the shredder they went. There were cards and letters from his family that also bit the dust. After we were divorced, there were unhappy documents stashed away from the divorce and from many years of court battles regarding custody. Since my son is now 34 years old and safe from anyone trying to take him away from me, I think shredding those documents was long overdue. I also found calendars with each visitation carefully documented.
Gone! Carried out in the trash, where they belonged.
What I found that was interesting and I’m glad I had saved them were copies of letters I had written during that troubled season of my life 33 years ago. I was such a mixed up, hurt, badgered woman at that time. Looking back, that’s all I could remember about me during that season — struggling, searching, wounded. The most amazing thing happened when I reread those letters written from my own heart. They sounded as if I might have written them this morning.
I was a young woman of absolute faith and integrity under even the worst circumstances imaginable. I was reaching out with forgiveness, godly wisdom and prayer to the ones who had caused me the most hurt. My trust was in God and my hope was in the future He had for me. I may have been hurt and confused on the surface, but I was so happy to know that at the very core of my existence were my love for God, and His faithfulness working in me.
I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging on me, because that is not at all what I mean. I am bragging on God and His place in my life through all of these many years. Without His presence in my life, all would have been lost. Without His love for me and the confidence I have in Him, I shudder to think what decisions I might have made or what paths I might have followed. Without the Holy Spirit working in my heart, I hate to think what kind of bitterness might have taken root.
Any good thing in me is because of the Lord in me. The ugly things that others might see in me is when they have run out Jesus in me and just looking at Judy.
I also shredded old awards from high school, college and church from years ago. Awards are wonderful, encouraging and uplifting in the moment. They cause a person to want to keep on trying, do better and accomplish more. I have been blessed with recognition along life’s journey at times when I was discouraged or needed a nudge forward. But pieces of paper don’t make you a better person. They don’t make people think more highly of you or like you better. They are simply stepping stones along the way. What I accomplished yesterday is irrelevant to what I am doing with myself today and the way I am treating the people around me.
Today is the important opportunity that we have to try to be kind to others, do good, accomplish things that we need to get done. The future is an unwritten novel before us. But the past is simply the foundation we have built to support ourselves today and build something good in the future.
It is hard to say what other things I have buried away in boxes and drawers that I have yet to discover. I think it is sometimes a good thing to take a cheerful walk down memory lane. But it is also good to put the past in the past and leave it there.
At the time I was shredding, I didn’t realize that in its own way, I was letting go of the past. I was removing documents and evidence of people and events that are no longer part of my life and no longer have a hold on me. I surely didn’t realize that when I loaded up the trash bags of shredded paper and got them out of the house that I was going to feel so good about it. I didn’t realize I would feel so liberated.
I surely did. It felt like what has gone before no longer has a root in me or any hold on me. I felt light and optimistic, looking forward to what the future holds. I want to embrace that future unencumbered by painful memories from the past.
Thirty years from now I may have to do the same thing again, but I hope that I have learned a valuable lesson of not holding on to things beyond their season of relevance. We don’t need useless papers and information cluttering up our space – physically or emotionally.
If life should take me in a new direction or bring unexpected moves, I won’t be dragging the past along with me in boxes, bins and drawers.
I am excited about the future and what God holds for me. I know I have choices to make and the freedom to choose any number of paths. We are not puppets made to perform. But in my freedom to choose, I choose to ask God, “What do you want me to do?”
I feel certain He will direct my paths. Just as He was with me in those early hurtful seasons of my life, and has been loving and faithful every day of my life, He will also walk with me into the future until He calls me home.