How many of us are still holding on to old photographs of past loves and mementoes from old love affairs and relationships? Probably more of us than we want to admit. I used to have a collection that I kept in a shoebox and a couple of small photo albums with photos of me and an old boyfriend that were at least twenty years old. Why was I holding on to these pictures? Really…as for the small albums with this particular person in them with me I just didn’t know why. I mean, it’s not like we parted on good terms or anything, and there was nothing I could think of that was even remotely pleasant to think about or long for. Finally I did trash them but the real reason why I did will be revealed in the next few paragraphs.
The gentleman that I was involved with next was the one in the shoe box photographs. We had a long term relationship that was extremely exciting for its duration, pleasant to recall, and ended on friendly terms. It took a little longer to rid myself of the shoebox than it did the albums. And by the time we both realized that our time together had run its course, the memories of the things we did together and the fun we had shared had diminished to a fuzzy mist on the horizon of my mind.
The true reason I had tossed the albums was because I had started going through a major change in my life and my lifestyle. I had wanted to become a better person and I desired a deeper spiritual walk with God. I knew that in order to walk upright in his sight I had to be willing to let go of the carnality in my life, and I had to remove all of the reminders of that carnal life. Hence the significance of throwing out the photographs was a symbol of the throwing out of the attachments to my old self.
The soul searching cleansing of the relationship with the shoebox gentleman was a bit more extreme and it took a little longer to complete. Like it took about five years to finish letting go of all the pictures I had accumulated along with some of the gifts. The very first revelation that I had about changing my lifestyle came about four years before I started separating from him physically and mentally. I remember being inspired to give away the stuff he had bought for me over time and when I made up my mind to get rid of it I started out pretty big. My grand gesture of self-discovery and re-engineering began with the give away of a beautiful full length lambskin leather coat. I figured that the bigger the sacrifice the bigger the reward.
Now this was years before I discovered that there are no good works I could ever do to gain a heavenly reward. God does not hand out “great job” or “good work” certificates and stickers for what we call doing good things. We cannot earn his love or his favor…it is freely given through salvation and the redemptive powers of his grace. So, I could have kept the coat and all of the others things I subsequently got rid of and had I known the value of a true relationship with God it wouldn’t have mattered.
Nevertheless, it’s all over now. All of the snapshots are gone and all of the memories have faded into once in a while recollections. Mostly I just think about how different I am now from then and how those experiences taught me valuable life lessons, and that’s what I think about when and if I allow myself to recall any of those years in those relationships.
Growing up can happen at any age and it’s not merely for the progressive ages from birth to adulthood. Life recycles itself and we are constantly learning, reaching and growing and never get too old to benefit from the recycling. As long as I remain in motion and not become stagnant, look forward and not backwards (except for retrospect) and focus on being in the present with a hope for the future I will gain more than we ever lost from the tossing away of old snapshots.