Isn’t it odd how we think that life should roll along in a tidy continuum of events, all neatly packaged and contained? With hard-starts and stops, like school years, our seasons are supposed to have definite beginnings and endings. We think we should be able to get through things — a transition, a difficulty, or even a celebration, and life is just supposed to bounce back to normal when it’s over.
Where do we get such crazy ideas?
If you’ve ever been inside my attic, you would understand how life is so not that way. Maybe it’s just me, but the door that barricades my life antiquities should come with a caution sign — “Enter at Your Own Risk.” Perhaps donning a miners hat and carrying a canary on your shoulder would not be a bad idea either.
It’s not that I’m a hoarder. I promise you, I’m not. It’s just that I’m a mom who had four kids. All of them had toys, special cuddly things, books, and VHS tapes. There are boxes of photographs, kids drawings, notes, cards, mementoes of every kind. There are guitars and bongo drums, head boards and a bassinet, suitcases and humidifiers. And games. Tons of games. And that’s just the beginning.
All of it, memories.
There is so much that we hold on to, not because we think we will use any of it again, but because we think that somehow it keeps that part of us still valid, connected in some way. Looking at the little feet of well worn pajamas proves that I was once a young mom, I was in control; and though they are all now young adults, I have proof that my kids were once cradled in my arms. We were a family then, too; whole, not separated by events that we would rather had not occurred, yearning to have another crack at figuring out alternatives.
But we can’t, of course. So we tuck these little representations deep within the recesses of our hearts, our homes, and we look at them now and then and remember what we think was a simpler time.
Nothing in life is tidy. Things, emotions, spill over like the fraying box of Christmas decorations that never quite go back together as they used to. The world will tell us when seasons are over, ignoring emotions that are supposed dissipate as if they never existed. “Moving on,” is a tag line for “Get over it and be done already.”
Somewhere, we came to believe that once signatures appear on papers, or people die or move away, or we marry off our children, that all feelings should end. Transitions should be seamless, even when they are forced upon us. Healings should be automatic occurrences, just because we say so. Consequences should resolve once everyone comes to terms with what transpired.
Wars end, babies are birthed, people vow “i do,” or separate. But that doesn’t stop what flows afterward. There is always more to do; there is always more to contend with. Always. I think we forget that. The event is only the beginning, not the end.
And that makes life messy. It means attics have lots of things to store because we don’t quite know what to do with it all. We don’t want to lose the past even when we know we can’t take it with us into the future.
We upsize and downsize. We purge our closets, but not our wedding dresses. We throw out old socks, but not the booties our babies came home in from the hospital. We hold on to our grandmother’s old sweater, but box and donate our own.
God created us to be sentimental. He gave us feelings. He doesn’t mind that when we bury our noses into a box of hand-me-downs, getting a whiff of Dreft or someone’s perfume or cologne, that we cry just a little bit. He understands the longing of our hearts.
In the midst of it all, He’s there, in every unfolding; growing us, changing us, and rolling us forward as we walk through this life. He’s in the cadence of our hearts when they beat with anticipation, or when they break; as they assume new loves or resolve to no longer linger over old ones. He is there. And He knows it all. And it is good.
I think God’s okay with our holding on to things that help us to remember a different time. He gave us these. I would guess that He would also want for us to be aware of Him, knowing that He is always bringing us through it; that He knows what is best, even when it hurts.
See, I am doing a new thing! Isaiah 43:19
Life is messy. I think it’s okay if the lids on all our boxes don’t seem to contain it all. It’s okay too if we have emotional days, moments of melancholy. It’s okay if we miss people, grieve our mistakes, have wistful moments of happy mixed with sad. It’s okay if our attics are not color coded and our containers neatly stored.
It’s all part of life. Stuff happens. And He is in the midst of it all.