Boxes and boxes. So many boxes. And in the kitchen pantry- six bags of Meijer brand powdered sugar. Cooking utensils lay naked on the counter top in anticipatory use; they too will soon find themselves packaged up, stored away. Clothes and old snow boots are sprawled across the sun-drenched July floor.
It’s nine in the morning and my roommates and I take garbage bag upon garbage bag out to the dumpster. We scrub sinks and toilet bowls before agreeing in unison that we have emptied enough closets and packed enough boxes to earn our breakfast. There’s a Tim Horton’s within walking distance, but we pile into one car and go through the drive through. Afterward, the living room floor at 4738 Duvernay becomes the keeper of my most sacred memory, as we spread out our coffees and paper-wrapped breakfasts on the carpet of our now barren townhouse, and eat.
We made space for a pause.
The post-grad years are an endless shuffle of moving boxes and fresh starts. In those moments between the crumbs and the coffee sips, my friends and I were all aware of an undercurrent of change. Our intentional rest created space to linger in the nostalgia, while also lending a curious yearning for the yet-to-come. In a similar way, the closing of another year gives us all a chance to reflect. December gives us an opportunity to re-pack our boxes, tossing away the things that hinder us and making room to start afresh. The new year lends us a perfect, natural pause. In the same breath we are able to both look back in remembrance and look forward in anticipation. January is the most eloquent usher of change.
As I look back on the past year, it has indeed been a year of change. A year of wild, worthy, and necessary change. I’ve learned I like when change comes in cardboard boxes, tightly packed and neatly sealed- each item strategically grouped and easily categorized for the journey. I like the kind of change where it feels like I’m still in control, the kind of change where I have a definitive plan. But I’m learning real life change isn’t always like that. It feels a bit, well, messy. Sometimes real life change feels a bit unwelcome.
Yet, growth cannot happen if we are not willing to put ourselves in the way of change. And growth through change will be heavily hindered if we are not willing to give up control. I look back upon the year of twenty-fifteen and I see in myself a year of fear-driven conduct. I see a year characterized by the uncertainty of my future plans, and of myself compensating by seeking stability in earthly things- mostly, in trying to find a job. A year in which I let my emotions dictate my trust in God, all while wearing a semi-fake veneer of “all is well.” A year marked by anxiety and punctuated by distrust.
It is hard to rely on God in the midst of change. It is hard to hand our whole lives over to Him in the midst of the uncertain. Harder still, when all the world tells us otherwise. We fall victim to worldly lies that pull us to live apart from God, to live like Jesus isn’t real. Our lives inadvertently preach a false Gospel, reverting back to former versions of ourselves, trusting in the efforts of our own hands rather than in our God who provides. We tirelessly plan and meticulously calculate. All this, and life denies to turn out according to those very plans, leaving all our hours wasted in fruitless worry.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
He cares for the birds.
This new year I hope our eyes are opened once more to the tender care of our Father. His love compels us to lay down our weapons of control. Make room for Him to come, and He will enter when we open the gate. There is a chance His entrance might feel messy; He might take things out of our boxes that we don’t want touched. But He will transform these new vacancies, the ones once held by fear, hurt, and self sufficiency. Taking these places and kissing them to life, He will renew them. He will change them. We can trust Him with big changes because we know He has come to fill our boxes back up with gifts that are good. God will come to re-pack our boxes, if only we make the space.
But we must release our hold on control. We must relinquish our self-efforts. We must finally trust in the One who says He loves us, enough to lay down our anxiety. We must cease the obsessive planning and the compulsive striving, for they are leading us nowhere worth staying.
Back on that July morning, while eating breakfast on our townhouse floor, I didn’t want to move out. I sat there already missing the creaky floors and the narrow stairway, already missing the continual closeness of sharing a home with three women who felt like my second family. There was resistance, yet thankfulness; sorrow, yet joy. The change was met with ambiguity, but it was also met with God’s sovereignty; God was already re-packing my box.
As we step forward into the new year, let us be brave enough to embrace change. We can rely on God’s hand as we release our hold from the past in order to move into the future. He will grow and stretch us there in the most unexpected ways.
Happy New Year. Let’s make room for Him in 2016.
referenced scripture: Matthew 6:26-27