On March 8, 2012 I packed up my office at First Presbyterian Church in Klamath Falls, Oregon into about 158 boxes (slight exaggeration).
Yesterday, three years, four months and five days later, in my office at the Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, those 158 boxes began to get unpacked.
Unpacking the ten boxes or so yesterday took me on an unexpected roller coaster ride filled with emotional, spiritual and mental twists, curves, corkscrews, banks and turns.
The boxes were filled with books… some unread, some read, some – I should have read. Classic novels (think Old Man and the Sea, Grapes of Wrath), Systematic Theology books that were once pored over in days gone by. Authors that I soaked up every word. Authors that I have never even looked past the cover. Some hardback, some paperback and some had lost their backs altogether.
The boxes were filled with photographs… weddings I have performed, beautiful portraits of family members who no longer grace this earth with their physical presence, young pristine daughters who haven’t uttered a word to me in seventeen years and three months, faithful friends that I am still fabulously connected to, friends that have fallen by the wayside due to the natural attrition of life and distance, stunning geographical landmarks that I have had the good fortune to visit, to climb, to ride and conquer. Most of all the photographs elicited a memory where a very strong emotional and visceral connection was attached. The flood of emotional attachments was so overwhelming it was like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant.
The boxes were filled with gadgets, for lack of a better term. Yo-Yo’s, Old 35 millimeter camera that my dad had bought back in the 1950’s, Davidson College letter opener, Bronze American Legion Award from high school, a very old laptop computer, paper weights. My favorite paper weight that I hadn’t seen in three years, four months and five days with one of my favorite quotes – “Never, never, never give up!” – Winston Churchill. I realized after holding this paper weight that I had indeed done exactly that over the last three years – Never given up!
The boxes were filled with bulletins and programs. Weddings and Funerals tend to need the services of a pastor. The names and dates of birth and death dotted several bulletins. Each funeral notice struck deep into my heart the privilege of knowing the person whose funeral I had presided over. Names and faces filled my mind over the couples I have married. Some now divorced. Some still happily married to this day.
The boxes were filled with letters and cards. Over the years I have collected and kept encouraging cards, letters, emails and handwritten notes from friends, family members, parishioners and people I don’t hardly remember that have bolstered my sense of call and purpose in this world. There are times in my life where my insecurities take hold of me and my heart and I have to draw on those cards, letters and notes to buoy me during particular storms and rough seas that attempt to assault my well sense of being.
The boxes were filled with Bibles. There it was! My first hardback Harper Study Bible. Flipping through the pages and hovering over underlined passages that still hold meaning and value to this day in yellow highlighter from my high school days. Certain tags on specific passages indicated that I had preached on the underlined passage. Memories flooded my heart of my first youth pastor in high school sitting down with me on the dock of the Sacramento River Delta sharing with me the love of Jesus, the laughter of life and the abundant life that could be found in Jesus. His hands held this very bible. He helped show me the way. Depression got a hold of him like nobody’s business a few years ago and he committed suicide. At his funeral I sat next to a group of friends that were sitting on that same dock thirty five years ago.
The boxes were filled…
I wonder if life isn’t a lot like those boxes.
Our lives are filled with memories, experiences, photographs etched in our minds and hearts, people who have served us well and some people who have almost done us in, gadgets that hold special feelings and thoughts, cards, letters and notes that lift us up in ways like no other, scriptures that serve as the foundation of our very being and life.
How often are those boxes of life “unpacked?”
I’ll be honest with you…
Unpacking those boxes of our lives is not for the faint of heart.
It’s serious business.
I wonder if that’s why we don’t unpack those boxes more often.
The seriousness of it can oftentimes be too much for us to handle.
The major thread that ran through my heart, mind and soul yesterday as I unpacked the boxes was that with each memory, each emotion, each laugh and each tear there was one person who had been present on every step of the journey…God!
The thrill of the unpacking was found in the joy that I experienced God with each box unpacked…
I hope you’ll excuse me.
I have got to go now.
I have some more boxes that need to be unpacked!
I bet you do too…
Laugh often and Fear not!
And behold,I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Jesus (Matthew 28. 20)