Do you recall the movie “The Jerk” starring Steve Martin. There is a scene in the movie when Steve Martin’s character is arguing with Bernadette Peter’s character and he threatening to leave. As he goes, he makes the statement that he doesn’t need anything…he is only going to take the ashtray, and then the paddle game, then the remote, these matches and finally he adds his favorite chair. Each time that he adds something new, he prefaces it with “I don’t need anything”…just these things. It is a funny scene and one that often gets repeated verbatim in our home whenever my husband and I talk about paring down our belongings. I have been thinking about this scene as I near the end of my service here at Roberts Park UMC and start thinking about packing my office.
As I begin packing my office, I am trying to decide what to take with me and what I can do without. I don’t know if you have moved lately but I think that it is always a good time to take stock of the possessions that I have accumulated, think about how often I have used it since I last moved it and decided if it is important enough to me to move again. For example, I have three bookcases filled with books. All three of bookcases also have books stacked on top of them. While I have yet to go through each shelf, what I believe to be true is that I have consistently used the books housed on one of the three cases and perhaps referenced about one-third of the rest of them. I anticipate that when I am actually ready to go through them, I will have boxes available to pack those which will travel with me and boxes available for those books that will be given away.While there are many other possessions both at the church and in my home that I will also be sifting through as I prepare to move on, the reality is there are also many emotions and experiences that I will be examining to decide what I am taking with me and what is best left behind. I believe during our lifetime as we move from one place to another, from one role to another or from one position to another, it is always good for us to take stock of what we want to keep and what is healthier to let go. There are good memories and experiences and less positive experiences. There are positive relationships and relationships that have been more challenging. What I know is that we learn from all our experiences both positive and negative and we grow from each relationship even those relationships that challenged us. But even if all those experiences and relationships have helped us to grow, it is always better for us if we can keep what is useful and let go of what is not.
I once asked a couple who had been married for over 50 years what their secret was. The woman answered that while they had experienced good times and bad times over the years, the good outweighed the bad and that is what they chose to hold onto. In Proverbs 3, we are reminded not to forget what is important; we are told that we should bind the things that are important to us around our necks and write them on our hearts. It goes on to help define what is important: remembering God’s teaching, not forsaking devotion and faithfulness, trusting in God and honoring the Lord. We are also reminded that trusting only in our wisdom may be misleading but we can always rely on the wisdom of our Lord.
So as I begin to pack up my possessions, my memories, and my experiences, I will put my trust in God to help me discern what is important. I will rely on God’s wisdom to help me decide what to hold onto and what to let go of understanding that what I choose to hold onto will help to color how I remember my experience overall. As you move into this New Year, I encourage you to take some time to discern what you will take with you and what you will let go of, seeking God’s guidance regarding what you should bind around your neck and especially what you should write on your heart.