My youngest brother has a mean streak. He also can be incredibly kind and generous. He has helped me with my estate planning and in fact is the executor of my estate when I die. He and his wife and children also helped me move several months ago. They did a great job cleaning and packing. It was in the packing, though, that I noticed his mean streak. He kept asking me when the last time I had used something was. Then throughout the cleaning and packing process he would make periodic trips to the dumpster with trash bags that I didn’t remember filling. Much to my chagrin, however, I can’t say that I’ve missed anything.
My brother also had my name for Christmas this year and one of the things on my list was a couple of new cookie sheets. As I was putting them away he demanded that I produce my old cookie sheet, which to be honest definitely had seen better days. He promptly took it and deposited it in the garbage. Now I can’t prove it, but I’m almost positive he threw out several other items while I wasn’t looking.
Now, I know my brother isn’t really being mean, and he knows that while I am not a hoarder, I do have trouble letting go of things. I like to think I’m sentimental, but my brother is the youngest in our family, and for the first several years of his life everything he had was a “hand me down.” From this perspective, I suspect things lose their sentimentality after you’re the fourth or fifth person to possess or use them. Given this, my brother doesn’t have a problem purging things that aren’t being used or that have survived their usefulness. And while I did do some purging in my recent move, I know that there is a lot more purging that I need to do.
Not only do I need to do some purging of physical “stuff,” though, but I think there is also some emotional “stuff” that I could easily purge and do without. I suspect this is true for all of us. In my experience, most if not all of us hold on to some anger, resentment, and old wounds. We also carry around bad memories, hurt feelings and painful experiences we aren’t able to forgive. In most cases it’s not that we deliberately intend to hold on to these things, it’s just that we don’t know how, or simply aren’t able to purge them.
In the above situations it would be great if someone could just rummage through our past bad experiences and resentments and simply put them in an emotional dumpster. Unfortunately, this is a task we have to do ourselves. And yet, we really aren’t alone in it. If we invite God into our lives, if we let God’s grace find a home in our lives and hearts, God’s grace can help us to let go of—to purge—those negative things that in many cases hold us hostage and keep us from moving forward spiritually and emotionally.
Letting go of things, either physical things or emotional baggage, is not easy. Fortunately there are people who can help us purge some of our physical items. (I suspect my youngest brother might be available.) And God is there to help us let go of the emotional baggage we carry. The key in both cases is to invite them in and let them do what they are good at.