Death Throws (aka unpacking stuff)

Moving is the only inspirational fodder I have these days. It’s been weeks since I’ve watched a video or read a book, or even knit. Every day is filled with painting walls and unpacking boxes. The latter has been eye-opening.


The first time we moved was a professional job. Burly men gently cradled possessions into stiff boxes which were then moved 400 miles away. I recall the long unpacking period, and the shock at unpacking a box containing the kitchen garbage can… still filled with garbage. 

This time around, we used movers for the heavy stuff. We called in a team of guys the day after the move to haul off the furniture that didn’t make the cut. Most of the boxes we packed and moved ourselves.

My ritual of unpacking a box begins with seeing if the person who packed it was gracious enough to give a nod to its contents (I need to add here that Bill religiously marks the boxes. The lettering may be illegible, but they are marked!) The rite continues with removing item by item and either putting the object where it belongs or staring at it wondering why on earth it had been packed in the first place. 

Why would I pack dry erase markers for a board that had been discarded AND that were also dried up and no longer usable? Those markers were packed into a box (purchased!), and then carried that box to the new place (gasoline!)… to toss it. It ends up in the same landfill, but after costing precious time, money, and mental angst. Everything is dust, says the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Obviously, the author of that text must have moved frequently.

I know why I keep things. I might need them. They bring lovely memories of another time. They make me feel like I am prepared. They comfort me.

There are multiple organizational books out there, from Marie Kondo’s advice to keep only what you love to Swedish Death Cleaning (it’s a thing. Honest!). The presence of these on bookstore shelves attest to the difficulty we have in tossing stuff. Churches are notoriously bad at this. Every church I’ve served has at least one closet (room, garage, basement) loaded with stuff that should have been discarded years ago. Every church I’ve served has a calendar that deserves the same treatment.

Of course, churches don’t move all that often. There are exceptions to that rule (looking at you, South Valley, Arlington, and Kenmore Pres!) but in general, we hold our rituals in the same place as our fore-parents. We do so for the same reasons we keep our stuff… memories are triggered, and we are comforted.

Two and a half years ago, the Church moved in a significant way. We moved online and into people’s living spaces. We may not have taken the time to critically eye the contents of our boxes. Now that we’re back in the space where we know comfort, there’s likely even less desire to see what in those boxes should be tossed.

I’ve stated previously that I don’t know what God has next for the church. I do know that God continues to be in the middle of everything, and trust that regardless of the effectiveness of our churches… God will continue to be God. 

I’m less convinced that God will use the stuff we’ve had in the back of that Sunday School closet (or the annual ‘whatever’ that no one has a passion for anymore) to move hearts. I’m also not convinced that holding on to anything makes us nimble enough for whatever our next Call is. What I do know is that a whole bunch of energy is being expended on holding on… to dust.

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