Thirteen years old. Brushing pieces of fiberglass insulation out of my face, I tried to process what had just happened. The silence was surreal after the deafening sound of the entire house being ripped apart by a tornado. I didn't know if my youngest brother was still alive, and my body was frozen with the shock of seeing the open sky where walls and a roof should have been. Nothing of mine was saved; all I had were the clothes I was wearing and a pair of my mom's old shoes that I'd found in the dark.
Eighteen years old. I left my parents' house, completely unplanned, and never came back. My sister smuggled a bit of clothing to me over the next week or two, but the majority of everything I owned was left behind. I realized much later that my parents found the notes from my boyfriend that I'd hidden at the bottom of my sock drawer. What I wouldn't give to have those back.
Nineteen years old. I stared at the stack of red luggage in front of me in the parking lot and thought of the condo I'd just furnished the month before and boxes upon boxes of beloved memories left in a near-stranger's garage. Moving across the country by myself for the second time, again unplanned until two days prior, and all I could take was what I could fit on the plane. Again. The numbing emptiness didn't hit me until I was in Memphis on a layover and I thought of how much of my life I'd left scattered across the country. And wondered if I would ever get any of it back. My chest ached.
Twenty years old. Staring at the shattered glass all over the pavement and the seat of my car, I could barely breathe. I had left my car for five minutes, just long enough for my Macbook Pro to be stolen from under the backseat. Everything I'd ever written. Every picture I'd ever taken. Every project I'd ever done for any client. A year's worth of letters I'd written to my sister while she was kept in a "boarding school" of sorts, with a strict no-correspondence rule. I wrote every day and planned to give them to her whenever my parents let her out, or when she turned 18. The two books I was in the middle of writing. That laptop contained the only remnants of previous lives I'd lived; all of it gone. I'd come to terms with losing all my physical things over and over again in the past years, and I had held onto pictures and written memories to keep me sane. Now these were gone too. I felt like my life had just been erased.
I could go on, but it's hard. There are more stories, but I've made my point.
I am familiar with loss.
I know what it's like to stand alone in an airport and wonder what happened to your life.
I have fought through the long minutes in the shower, feeling the hot water burn the back of your neck and not wanting to ever climb out and stare at the reflection of your empty hands in the mirror.
I have cried over the loss of a ragged pink blanket given to me the day I was born, that made it through more than 20 moves - but not the 21st.
Loss is something I fear possibly more than anything else. It induces panic. It reminds me that I am helpless. But there are few times I have ever felt more alive.
I can only assume that God made it a priority to teach me this lesson: I can take nothing with me.
It is true that we do not know what we have until it's gone.
It is also true that we do not know how worthless those things were until we learn to live without them.
What would you still have if you woke up tomorrow morning with all your possessions gone? What would you do if you were given one suitcase to fill in 10 minutes before you moved 3000 miles away? How would you deal with the material faux-foundation being stripped out from under your feet?
I have learned to let go. To hold my hand open. We control nothing. Ultimately, God calls the shots. The shots that leave you sitting in the middle of a cul-de-sac in the middle of the night, in a city you don't know, rain soaking you while you sob. The shots that show you the immeasurable gap between your soul and what you think you own.
I ask you to let go. To live with less. To open your hands. To be thankful for extreme loss. To leave things in order to find life.
This week, get rid of things that you'd rather keep. Create a void. Shake your security. Force yourself to miss something. Bleed it out. And then, seek God.
You'll hear things you've never heard, and you'll breathe in a way you never have.