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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

A Time to Keep

How do we know what to keep? Our lives are over-stuffed and crowded even more than our houses. It is too easy to keep what we do not need and wonder why we feel emotionally and physically drained. How can we learn how to sort?

My father was a keeper. My sister, brother and I attacked the stacks of his keeping habit after his heart attack took him away from us too suddenly. We found sentimental notes and mementos from his travels across this continent, but some of it was just his procrastination as he unloaded his car from one sales trip and prepared for the next. The problem was that what we needed to keep was buried under what we needed to throw awy. It meant handling each item, going through each box to rescue what had value. We threw away much more than we kept, but in the keeping were vignettes of his life and relationships we would never have known.

The heart has more keeping room than our closets, drawers or basement storage. We keep memories, accusations, rejections, successes, failures, broken dreams. The problem is that we just keep them. The good with the bad. The helpful with the hurtful. We don’t know how to sort and make healing choices about what to keep and what to let go. Past hurts continue to share their pain. Past failures come back to trip us just when we want to try again.

A time to keep is not just a time to find more storage room. A time to keep sends us to look for value in what we have stored, be it memory or memento. What helps us move forward? What stalls us or weights us? Keep the lesson but not the pain. Return the betrayal to the betrayer for you cannot receive absolution for another’s sin.

I stoked the fire in a cottage fireplace. I was more than a little proud of myself for building it in the first place. I was there to speak and enjoyed the peace and solitude of this cabin in the woods. Sitting in front of the blaze, watching fiery tongues curl and cuddle logs was mesmerizing. In that settled silence I let that fire melt the wall that kept me from thinking about what I should keep from the past season.

I came broken from misunderstandings that destroyed my confidence and released my insecurities. Again. The memories were easy to rehearse but held no healing. That’s when God directed the sorting. He showed me the difference between what belonged to another’s hurt and brokenness and what was mine to deal with. I could not pin my healing on someone else’s confession. To keep the helpful parts of the past season, I had to give the grace I wanted to receive, which is just another way of forgiving. I wrote down the misunderstandings and hurts and gave them to the fire. Really, I gave them to God for that fire was my burning bush. The paper curled around my words, blackened them and turned them to ash. But in my heart, I knew what to keep that would grow me and make me a more loving woman in the future.

A keeping time is good for the soul as long as the sorting has been Spirit-directed. God uses a keeping time to help lighten your load, not add to it. He does not barge in uninvited. He knocks. But when you open the door you know He can help you do this: sort, remove, throw away, restore, empower. Then, what you keep will so lighten your load that you will walk on tip-toe as if you are ready to take flight. Because you are!

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