Purging My Shelves

By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there we hung up our harps.

For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

(Psalm 137:1-4)

Do you have a lingering to-do list? I created a little list of things to accomplish when we began our social isolation in March. Somehow, as I have been working from home, I started seeing all those things I have been meaning to get to over the years. So, in a fit of organizational energy, I started a little Projects to Complete During COVID check list in my phone Notes section. Remarkably, I have even found some traction in completing some of my projects. I had a couple of prayer shawls lying in a basket half finished – check. I wanted to do some touch up paint on my walls and baseboards – check. Clean out my pantry – check. Organize my photos – well, let’s just say that one seems a bit too overwhelming. And then, there is the issue of my books.

I thought it would be an easy task to go through my books, but so many of them evoked memories of special times or chapters in my life. For whatever reason, I have held on to a green covered script from my favorite high school play – “You Can’t Take it With You.” I found my favorite book from middle school days, complete with my youthful flowery signature. Then, the shelf of books from seminary – all of which I can find online these days. There were parenting books that reminded me of the confusion I had in trying to be a good and loving mother. I found daily devotionals gifted to me over the years from special people in each congregation. I remembered the growth I experienced as I worked through workbooks on the Twelve Steps. The Enneagram shelf reminded me of the power of understanding those around me in deeper ways. All the memories have surfaced as I fingered through each of the books, trying to decide whether to keep them or share them.

The Scripture for this devotion highlights the longing of people who found themselves in a strange place, reminiscing about the days of old, thick with memory. They were hanging on to what was, unable to imagine what a new future might hold for them. The more they clung to the past, the less they could imagine God’s faithfulness in the next chapter of their lives. My trip through a lifetime of library memories has made me realize that we hang on to what has had meaning in our lives. I have also realized that my memories remain whether I have a tangible reminder of those remembrances. While there is a time to hang on to the objects, there is also a time to let go of the stuff – trusting that what is important will linger.

In these days, it is easy to hold on to what was, yet God’s call to me is to imagine God in the next chapter opening the doors to something new and wonderful. What do you need to let go of or what do you need to hold on to? Let’s figure out ways to trust God together as our future unfolds.

Rev. Dr. Deb Kaiser-Cross
Minister for Congregational Care

For all afraid of the unknown:
Wondrous God, thank you for all the blessings of life and for answers to our many prayers – prayers answered that we didn’t even realize we prayed, and prayers not answered that turned out to be blessings. Thank you for people around us who remind us of what is important in this life: friends we can count on when we are stretched to our limits. We offer you the prayers of our hearts trusting that you will be at work in each situation, bringing goodness out of life’s difficulties. Amen.