After a four-year-long season of opening my home up to people who needed a place to stay for all sorts of circumstances, I have finally spent the past four months alone in my home. It’s not only been a season of singing out loud (and not well), it’s also been a season of emptying boxes, going through pictures, and shredding things I no longer need.
It began with boxes of things that at one time I was apparently sure I’d need again some day but never have, and progressed to the large filing cabinet in the corner of my basement. I camped there for weeks in front of it.
The contents of that filing cabinet have brought me all sorts of emotions. I’ve spent more hours sitting on the floor of my basement going through old photos than I can count. Some of the memories have really made me laugh – like Ian’s first grade picture when he snuck a gigantic transformer on a rope to school and wore it around his neck for the photo. It was quite the surprise a few months later when the class pictures arrived. The smirk on his face as if he’d gotten away with something was priceless – and it’s my favorite photo of him.
That filing cabinet also provided all sorts of laughs. Art work from the kids’ elementary days (some of it currently wrapped and under the Christmas tree for Rory’s kids ;), and even my first paycheck from the Army 36 years ago. I’ll spare you the laugh, but it was pitiful 😉
Some very personal things were also pulled out that made me just sit and cry for a while. One folder in particular held copies of documents I didn’t realize I still had. When I sat and began to read them, I was reminded why I stood outside one day many years ago and burned them. This time, I had to stop everything I was doing and walk down to the end of my court and throw the copies in the dumpster. Reading through them just brought back the pain and reminded me all over again how awful it feels not to forgive someone, and how unhealthy it is to hold a grudge.
Later that night I was also emptying out the top cupboards in my kitchen and wondering how in the world I had accumulated so much stuff! Cleaning the cupboards lead to cleaning the floor, which lead to cleaning the fridge…… You get the picture.
I removed all of the magnets and photos from my refrigerator – each of those with a memory as well, and there on the side of the fridge hung the reminder – the reminder of the most recent person who purposefully hurt me. The piece of paper others have asked me why I’d kept. The note that served as a daily reminder to me of how never to treat another person. Evidence.
The truth is – I’ve called it all sorts of things. But it’s really just a grudge. And I’ve been keeping that grudge because I have wanted to withhold forgiveness, and that is wrong. And do you know what? It feels really, really crummy.
So I put on my shoes and made another trip to the dumpster with one little piece of paper. It felt really, really good to slide the back door open and toss it in with all that smelly garbage in there – right where it belongs. It felt like freedom. And two weeks later, it feels even better.
The year is coming to an end in just over a week. My basement is almost empty, I no longer have kitchen cabinets full of unnecessary items, and I’ve enjoyed some laughter and tears over so many old photos.
But the healthiest thing I’ve done in my down-sizing is to get rid of the tiny piece of paper representing that great big grudge that’s been hanging on my fridge…..
…..and in my heart.
It’s been a sweet year.
Is there someone you need to forgive? You don’t need them to be sorry in order to forgive them.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32