Letting Go

I’ve been purging possessions. It began with getting a few items together for the church rummage sale a couple weeks ago and has escalated into bags and bags of stuff heading out the door.

For a while now I’ve been startled at all the possessions I’ve accumulated over time. I say ‘startled’ because I’m the girl who used to pride myself in that I could fit everything I owned in a backpack. I vividly remember the contentment I had on a day in West Africa about 25 years ago, wearing the same t-shirt and shorts I had worn a billion times, sitting on my backpack waiting for a bus. I had a few clothes, my journal, my cassette player and some tapes. I was indescribably happy.

But those traveling years ended and I went back to school to become a pastor. Over time I collected books, lots of books, scraps of furniture here and there. Having children escalated the amount of stuff I owned, but what increased the volume by a TON was when my husband’s parents died and my parents died. Suddenly there were all these possessions that needed a place to be and I couldn’t quite bear to get rid of some of it. Trust me, we got rid of A LOT but there was still A LOT left.

It’s funny how things, simple material possessions, become precious. Mom would probably laugh at the things I kept. An ice cream scooper, a sugar bowl, her china closet, the waffle maker she inherited from her own mother – so many items we never, ever use but they sit around me and collect dust.

So almost as an exercise, I picked up the sugar bowl and put it in the box to give away. It felt okay. I brought it over to church and set it down. It felt okay. I saw it sit on the table while people shopped. It felt okay. No one bought it and so it would be packed up to be taken to the local thrift store. It felt okay. I never had a need to go pick it up again and squirrel it away to remember her. As if I could ever forget her.

So then I went home and have been getting rid of so much more – books, clothes, trinkets, decorations – and with every bag that goes, I feel like I’m uncovering the girl who sat contentedly on her backpack in West Africa. I needed to hold on to those things for a while, but now I no longer need them.

Yesterday, my husband was cleaning out the garage and picked up the waffle maker that has been sitting there for years. He said, “Is it okay to finally get rid of this?” I said, “that’s fine.” And it is.


Published by Ruth E. Hetland

Ruth E. Hetland is the pastor of Saint Peter's Lutheran Church of Audubon, Minnesota. She is a mom, wife, skeptic, and Alt for Norge (Norwegian reality show) participant. She has served as a pastor in three other congregations prior to Saint Peter's: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of South Newstead in Akron, New York, First Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Our Savior's Lutheran Church at Norse of Clifton, Texas. She has been published in The Lutheran magazine, Christ in Our Home, the Word in Season, the Upper Room, Sundays and Seasons, and several other worship resources. Her most recent book is "Writing With a View of the Graveyard: Loss, Life, and Unruly Grace;" (2018). This devotional with photographs of rural churches is available in black and white on Amazon and in full-color by contacting Ruth at ruthehetland@gmail.com; Ruth's first book, a preaching resource, "The Power of Place and Story in Preaching," was published in 2012 and is available on Amazon. Ruth can be contacted at ruthehetland@gmail.com.

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