When I was a mother of young children I’d often find myself holding on to a pebble, kleenex, or wad of gum that had made its way into my hand. Over time, with continued practice, I had trained my brain to perform this skill with almost no thought behind it. Eventually, I grew weary of holding my preschooler’s snotty kleenex and had to retrain my brain to keep my hand closed when they wandered near me.
Retraining is work.
In my work as a pastor, I’m often in vulnerable and intimate spaces with people. Marriage, Divorce, Death, Separation all leave their mark and demand care and compassion. Sometimes, I am able to hold the grief and then let it go, other times, I hold on to these tragedies, and they move deep into my heart.
A necessary practice for me is to get away for a time of silence and solitude. Allowing memories to resurface helps me work through the pain, identify resentments or unspoken expectations, or cry about something that is sad. Because oftentimes I have to put my immediate feelings on the back burner in order to be professional.
Some stories are just sad and can’t be repaired. The repairing comes when I allow myself to feel and decide what is the next right thing to do and be.
We all carry things that are not meant for us. From Kleenex to hidden expectations, we discover that we are holding something that needs to be put down. It was never ours to carry anyway.
That turning—from holding to releasing—is a spiritual work. We really do get our entire lives to develop this practice. We learn to tune into our relationships with people, as we learn how to refrain from holding on to things that aren’t ours to carry. We learn and retrain our own brain and heart muscles to carry and then care for ourselves when the baggage is too heavy.
What are you ready to put down?
What isn’t yours to hold any more?