Leaving: Take nothing for the journey

"Leaving" is a series of blog posts having to do with my process of transitioning out of my first call and into a new call; leaving St. Timothy Lutheran (Naperville, IL) and moving to First Lutheran (Decorah, IA).
"I am the walking poster child for the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind.'"

I said this sentence earlier today when a few of us ladies in the office were talking about the matching bracelets that we all received as Christmas gifts. I explained that Matt and I spent the weekend cleaning and organizing in preparation for the Great Apartment Packing Adventure, and I told them how I had cleaned off my dresser, putting all my jewelry away, including said bracelet. And now, since the bracelet is tucked away inside a jewelry box instead of sitting out, I have been forgetting to wear it.

I have cleaned out all but one file drawer here in my office, and every time I open a new folder, I think one of two things:
1. Why on earth did I bother to file this away and keep it? When was I EVER planning on using it again?
2. Oh...I totally forgot about that interesting article/paper/resource! It would have been useful months ago for my sermon/Bible study/presentation/conversation. Why didn't I remember it was there?
Yup. Out of sight, out of mind. Dangerous for someone like me who is simultaneously inclined to keep everything.

Those are the poles of my personality, I think. Part of me has a burning desire to hold onto everything and never let go. And the other part of me is amazingly forgetful. Neither side serves me well all on its own. But I work to keep a balance. There are certainly days when I file away an email and forget to respond to it. And there are other days when I hoard control of a project and bury myself in the details. But most of the time, the collector in me and the forgetter in me balance out and I live with enough stuff/people/details/responsibility around me, not too much, not too little.

But this is also a source of anxiety for me when I think about leaving. Packing my office, I need to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. And when I awake next Monday morning, newly "unemployed" and facing an empty two weeks between calls, I will need to make decisions about which memories to keep and which to discard, which experiences I will carry with me and which ones I will leave behind. I will need to decide how much of my St. Timothy life I will bring with me and how much I will need to set aside to be fully present in my new call. I don't want to hold onto everything, nor should I. But I also don't want to move and leave everything behind and forget simply because it is out of my sight.

This, friends, is the struggle that we all face in the midst of transition. Because big life transitions are tests of identity. Who am I and who was I and who will I be? And how much of my identity is tied up in a particular place or a particular job or a particular set of projects and tasks? And which pieces of my identity will grow, shift, change, or diminish as I become embedded into a new time, a new place, and a new world?

I think that each of us hovers between the two poles of hoarding and forgetting. And each of us, in any time of transition, must ask, "What will I take with me, and what will I leave behind?"

And then there's Jesus, who instructs his disciples, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9:3-6)

I think that the lesson here and the hope is that we have permission to leave things behind. We have permission to leave even important things behind in good faith, leaving them to someone else's safe-keeping. We have hope to trust that our needs will be provided for, and that we are free to live out our callings - perhaps freer! - when we travel light.

So I will carry with me the best of this place, but also let go of much and open my hands to grasp the future that God is preparing for me. I do not need to hoard, and I do not need to leave everything behind. I simply need to walk forward, clothed by the experiences I've had, but without any extra baggage, and I need to trust that God will continue to provide for me on this journey.

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