What does last week's thought have in common with an oatmeal box? Another trick question!
However, it was an oatmeal box that actually started the process of tying the knot between the closure of good-byes, the angst of my tomorrows, and truth. I thought I'd just share the story (I apologize to those who've heard me tell it).
In the midst of my packing, I grabbed the familiar basket of train tracks and Thomas the Train engines off the shelf. That basket has been the favorite of many a grand-child and neighbor boy. One grand-son in particular. It has been the one thing of all the things we do together that has occupied hours of our time. We have built hundreds of tracks, run through more batteries than imaginable, and created multiple memories that put a smile on this Nana's face. One Christmas all I asked for was more train track, so we could really send Thomas around the world of our little apartment. No track was complete without...THE OATMEAL BOX. Oatmeal boxes make terrific tunnels, and this particular box lived in the train basket during its off-work hours................for years.
As I was saying, I was packing, and knew it was stupid to pack the oatmeal box. We needed the room. So, off to the trash I went, hugging the oatmeal box. The trash can was maybe 30 steps away. However, between the bedroom and the kitchen, I lost it. Major meltdown. I hugged the oatmeal box and wept (vulnerable moment here, laugh if you want - I did.....later; I even kissed the thing). I threw it away. Cried some more. Went to my favorite chair, where I meet with the Lord every morning, decided to journal, and went back to the trash and took the oatmeal box out. I took a picture of it. Then I went to throw it away again.....................................and, took it out of the trash another time (it became an object lesson for a devotional thought I was giving to the leadership students).
My journal entry started like this: Today, I hugged an empty oatmeal box and cried... You don't need the rest of what I wrote. At this moment, I think I was as crazy as you are thinking I was. However, that oatmeal box was symbolic. Symbolic of the good-byes to come, the fast pace at which life has passed, and the tomorrows that will fly by, as well, before I know it. As I processed on paper, I realized I didn't want to hold on to the past, or the little boy whose hands held and played with that oatmeal box. Nor did I want to worry today about his, or my, tomorrows. I wanted to celebrate the now-minutes for all they were worth.
I was also reminded of something else. It's a pattern I see all through Scripture. David did it. Paul did it. The elders in churches did it. Jesus did it. It's OK to grieve. Stuffing emotions only traps us. As I tell students, emotions are not good or bad - they are what they are. God made us emotional beings. They are teachers, indicators. They tell us what is going on inside the heart. They help us fully embrace today. Grief in its own way is a celebration of the now-minute. The oatmeal box represented that now minute. I cried, not over the box, but the memories of the good-times-past, and even the humongous-trials-weathered that it represented, as well. In all this, one passage of Scripture kept haunting my mind. I remembered Paul leaving the elders on the shores at Ephesus before he boarded the boat that would take him away forever. I looked it up later, and while it's just words, it was a reminder to me, of the way God intends for us to fully live in today's celebration of now (I'll pick up after Paul's words of good-bye):
And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving...and they accompanied him to the ship (Acts 20:37-38).