By Steven Norris

     I had an odd sense of emotions as I carried the bag full of old shoes to the garbage bin and rolled it down to the street this morning. Later today, our garbage collector will pick them up and take them to their final resting place in the Spalding County landfill.

     Now, before anyone gets up in arms about how I should have donated them to a clothes closet, let me be clear: these shoes had reached the end of their life. The insoles were ripped open, the soles were slick, the outsides tattered beyond repair. It was time to let them go.

     I certainly don’t see myself as a hoarder. I know about hoarders. My grandmother kept everything. When we helped her move, it took weeks, not to mention multiple full-sized dumpsters hauling away junk. She kept everything.

     Visiting my grandparents’ house as a kid was like a never-ending treasure hunt. Their den was filled with rows of metal shelving with only a small path to navigate through most of it. There was no order to the chaos — stacks of washed-out yogurt containers resting next to plastic TV dinner trays right alongside expensive collectable Madame Alexander dolls.

     As I sorted through the many emotions around my old shoes, I could see better why throwing them away was more complicated than it really should have been. Clearly, they had done exactly what they were designed to do — they cushioned and protected my feet for years. But somewhere beneath those worn treads, you might find a few remnants of red clay from Uganda or sand from my favorite beach. They had left prints along the Appalachian Trail. Those shoes carried me to many a soccer game for my boys and on a number of dates walking around the lake with my wife.

     Memory is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it is important for us to look back and recognize the path that has brought us to the place where we are today. On the other hand, nostalgia — that sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past — can prevent us from being present to the gift of life right in front of us. Then, there is resentment — that deep sense of bitterness and indignation over some wrong done to you or pain inflicted — that can poison every experience as it anchors your soul to past hurts.

     Like Grandmother’s den, all of those memories often clutter the shelves of our souls until we decide to do a little cleaning. Letting go of resentments can look an awful lot like forgiveness as we make the choice not to let those past hurts “live rent free” in our minds. Letting go of nostalgia can look a lot like gratitude as we thank God for the experiences and people who have shaped us, yet we continue to move forward.

     Getting some of that stuff out of my hands puts me in a much better position to receive the good gifts that God has in store for me today and throughout the year ahead. There is also the anticipatory excitement of new adventures ahead as the UPS driver pulls up the driveway with a brand new pair of shoes.