Flinging our cares away

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By Nancy Kennedy

When we moved to Florida from California 23 years ago, we did so with only the things we could fit into two vehicles.

That meant getting rid of 15 years’ worth of possessions to start over, which was both sad and exciting.

I especially hated parting with the coffee table my husband had accidentally autographed.

He tends to write hard and had been signing checks. After that, at a certain angle you could see a half-dozen “Barry Kennedy” indentations in the table top.

However, since we were moving into my late in-laws’ fully furnished house in Florida, we didn’t need to bring any of our things, like a personally autographed coffee table.

When we got to Florida, I took a mental inventory and was — how can I say this kindly? Let’s just say, I and my mother-in-law, a lovely Italian lady from New York and of another long, long ago generation, had different tastes in décor.

And she liked lots of it.

At first my husband said we shouldn’t change anything. But I just had to. So, I devised a plan to take things off the walls and table tops a little at a time and stow them in boxes in the garage.

Eventually, Barry caught on to what I was doing, and eventually he saw that “less is more” was actually a good thing.

However, boxing up his mother’s stuff was one thing, while throwing it out was another. So, we tripped over boxes for a few months until Barry reached a point where he realized it was time to toss it.

That’s when we discovered the county landfill, which, at that time, was a giant hole in the center of the county. Every Saturday we would load up the truck and fling Elvis plates and plastic canvas needlepoint butterflies into the open pit and watch seagulls scatter.

My girls still recall with fondness those Saturdays at the dump with their dad.

I like stuff, but at this stage in my life I like getting rid of it even better. Clutter makes me extremely agitated inside.

But some people can’t get rid of stuff. They’re on TV all the time, “extreme hoarders.,” keeping every newspaper, every empty plastic margarine tub, every piece of junk mail, every birthday card — everything that they touch or touches them.

One man couldn’t pass up a thrift store. He owned about 2,000 golf clubs, although he never played, and he spent $200 a month for a storage unit just to house them.

His hoarding embarrassed his children, and his wife nearly left him. It was the thought of losing his family that caused him to eventually confront his problem.

The TV cameras documented his agonizing struggle to throw out just one thing. But once he did, everything about him changed — and then he threw out another thing and another.

Exhilarated, he became a new man, saying, “I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!” Everybody clapped.

I think many, maybe most, of us are hoarders. Not stuff like golf clubs or plastic tubs, but we hold onto guilt and shame and painful memories and our life strategies that no longer work.

In Billy Graham’s devotional book, “Hope for Each Day,” one of the entries urges: “Unload your distress,” which Graham said is the French translation of the Apostle Peter’s directive to “Cast all your cares upon (God), for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Graham likened it to a trash truck emptying its load. The truck is useless if it carries its load of trash forever. He went on to write that likewise, we were never meant to be crushed under the weight of our cares.

But we are crushed. We carry stuff around that clutters the mind, weighs the soul and burdens the heart, kills us under its weight. It’s like living in a hoarder’s house. It makes us agitated and fretful. We suffocate, yet are often too fearful and unwilling to let go because we can’t imagine a life that’s better, even better than our current unbearable pain.

Graham posed the question: If God loved you enough to bear your sin upon his own shoulders, can’t those same shoulders be trusted to bear the burden of lesser things?

The answer is, of course they can. When we give God our cares, he takes them and bears them — all of them, flinging them like junk into the pit at the dump. And we are left exhilarated, unfettered, free — and wondering why we hadn’t done it sooner.