Over the past twelve years, my family and I have moved approximately 3,379 miles across five states. And now we are about add thirty-three more miles. Ministry in the UMC leads ministers and those who love them to do some traveling. And traveling means packing. My family and I have been packing for the better part of the last two weeks. Boxes and containers litter the house from one end to the other. Shelves are bare and cabinets are being emptied. The most minute of objects is scrutinized and decided on: does it stay, does it go. We have a fair amount of stuff packed but still, there is much to do. Hopefully, another few days and the bulk of everything will be packed up and ready to move on.

In all honesty, I’m a little tired of the packing and unpacking but it comes with the territory. Itinerant ministry means every four-six years you go through the process of moving unless you find just the right combination of pastor and church. The thing about packing and unpacking is you find things. Some of these things you likely have forgotten about. They’ve been buried in closets or boxes sealed up from two moves ago. They are things you wish you could find or wondered what happened to. They are things you are happy to see again. There are also things you find that are just junk. You don’t really want or need it but you were in a hurry when you were leaving the last place and just crammed it in box on the way out the door. When you find it, you’ll get rid of it but most likely it’ll get replace by something else you’re in a hurry to pack. And then you have the ‘should I could keep it or not’ things. They’ve almost outlived their usefulness but maybe not. You hesitate to throw they out because there is that one instance you can think of where you might need it.

For many of us, we do a lot of emotional/spiritual packing. Rarely, if ever do we unpack any of it. Life happens and we just keep packing, compartmentalizing until we find ourselves full and unable to process. We go numb or we get angry, or we get depressed but we hang on to everything we’ve packed. There are the things you forgot about, intentionally or unintentionally. They stay put away until the right word, right song, right moment happens and then they show up. There’s the junk, the stuff you know you don’t need, the stuff you thought you got rid of but somehow, it’s still there. You think you’ve thrown it away but when the right thing happens, right circumstance, the junk is strewn out all over the floor and you and everyone else is stepping on it. And there’s the stuff you just don’t know about. The feelings that seem to have meaning but maybe not the right kind of meaning.

Growth is moving. When you grow emotionally and spiritually, it’s kind of like unpacking and sorting things. You find stuff that needs to stay and stuff that needs to go. You find habits, emotions, ideas, and other stuff that can be left behind or put away or refined. You find the things you thought meant something really don’t mean as much as you believed and other thing mean more. This growth, this unpacking, is necessary or life stagnates.

So, what do you need to unpack? What is the junk that needs to go? What is the stuff that needs to be held on to?