Fall break, along with my gracious colleagues, created enough time for me to take my son to Saskatchewan to see his grandmother, my mother, for her 86th birthday. My father, a notorious packrat, died a few years ago and there’s still a great deal to go through.
Traveling back to my mother's house always serves to remind me of my continuing challenge to lighten my own load in this world. First, it's the simplicity required of travel itself: you've got to get the trappings of life down to a portable amount. A suitcase with a few clothes and a toothbrush always starts me wondering about how little it would take for me to get by. But more powerfully, my mother's house and the stuff that my father left behind is always a wake up call for me to work hard to counter my natural inclination to hold on to things for fear of letting them go. My mother, for her part, encourages this sort of thinking.
I was standing in her kitchen when I remembered a conversation I had with a friend of mine. At some point, I was sharing my natural anxiety about ridding myself of things and he said. "I have no trouble disposing of material things. It makes more room in my life for God to bless me.”
Now maybe you're not burdened with the same neuroses as I. And maybe at your stage in life managing the accumulation of your past isn't a big burden. My sense is that we all struggle with a practice of hanging on to things that are no longer useful to us, if they ever were. Maybe it’s not the stuff of your past, maybe it has more to do with the stuff of your future, the anxieties that plague us in the face of uncertain tomorrows filled with challenges and choices for us.
The Gospels according to Mark and Luke have Jesus encouraging us to consider the flowers of the field and their fabulous clothing over which they have not worried. In The Message, Eugene Peterson’s adaptation of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying, "What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving."
You'll notice that on both sides of the sentence you end up having. The difference is one of attention. To paraphrase my friend, it's like saying "I have no trouble giving up on my anxieties about my future, it makes more room for me to receive the blessings God intends for me."
Each of us is walking a unique path. We’ve come from different places, different families. We have different interests, different passions, different gifts and abilities. Yet all of these differences, God's will for each and every one of us is the same. God's will for you is the righteousness of Jesus. God’s will is so strong that he gives that righteousness to you as a gift.
As surely as this is true, so surely will God bless you in any and all circumstances with that which is necessary for you. The key is clearing out the junk in order to make room for it all. The key is letting go.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.