Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Gift of Letting Go

My father recently delivered a half a dozen plastic bins that have been sitting in my mother's basement for 20 years. She has asked me when I would get them at least once a year for the past ten, but it took my dad delivering a piece of furniture over Thanksgiving to ensure that the transfer of belongings would actually take place.

We brought the bins inside one by one, and I untaped a few to allow my eyes to behold a homemade Cabbage Patch Doll created during a Christmas season when Wal-Mart shelves were barren, a large rag doll that used to sit in a rocking chair in my room, and a Fisher-Price ferris wheel whose appearance quickly revealed my age. These bins were the easier ones to open. They were quite delightful. 

But other bins brought memories I wasn't quite ready to relive.

While there were several plaques reminding me of first place wins in public speaking and writing contests, there were even more plaques with the words "second" or "third" engraved on top. While there were pictures of a high school best friend, there were diaries with pages that reminded me of how alone I often felt as a teenager. I regularly say you could not pay me to go back to high school - or perhaps even get me to a high school reunion today. But those boxes took me back in a way I had not experienced for years.

And I wonder. 

I wonder how many things we take with us that we should let go of all together. I wonder how many things we carefully pack and store away in case we want to look at them again someday. I wonder what's begging to instead be taken to the dumpster - the very place I took my high school yearbooks week before last.

We're in a season where so many people are separated from loved ones because they have allowed events of the past to be carried into the future. A family member hurt you years ago, forcing you to pack up the pain and carry it with you every year since. Memories of disappointing moments have been placed inside boxes that you have not been able to let go of yet. One person will prevent you from stepping inside a particular New Year's Eve party because she betrayed you years ago. And so you keep moving, but at a much slower pace, because it's hard to move forward when you're attached to so many chains. 

Howard Thurman, in his extraordinary book, The Mood of Christmas, offers an invitation to receive and give the gift of grace at Christmas. He suggests that if we want to experience the meaning of Christmas, then we need to seek reconciliation with any individual with whom we have "a ruptured or unhappy relationship." He writes, "During the year that is rapidly coming to a close, you have perhaps had many experiences with many kinds of people, those with whom you live, those with whom you work, or those with whom you play, and in the course of these going-ons there have been times when the relationships heightened and were thrown out of join, and a desert and a sea developed between you and someone else. And you were so busy with your own responsibilities, and perhaps so full of hostility yourselves, that there was no time to give to the business and the experience and the grace of reconciliation. So will you think about such a person, find a way by which you can restore a lost harmony, so that your Christmas gift to yourselves will be peace between you and someone else?" (page 47).

What would it look like for you to let go of whatever pain or resentment you're carrying? 

How might you let go of the pain, not by tossing it into a ten-foot high dumpster where it will be taken away once and for all like I did all my second place plaques and ridiculously painful journals, but by picking up the phone or writing a note or inviting someone for coffee...all in an effort to say, "I'm sorry. I'm ready to let go."

Tell me, what's locked away in your storage closet that you've been carrying too long? 

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