Suitcases and Shelves

I’m fairly certain I would make a lousy world-traveler. We just returned home from a two-week long road-trip vacation where we lived out of suitcases the entire time. While I managed the chaos fairly well, I could feel myself stress out and tense up each time I approached our bags.

My disdain for suitcase living continued, even in the first moments that we returned home. Everything was unpacked immediately. Laundry was quickly sorted and in the washing machine. Once every last piece of clothing was folded and hung and put back into its rightful place, I could settle and still once again.

shelves and suitcases

Anytime I have to look chaos in the face, whether it’s in the form of clothes in a suitcase, toys strewn all over our living room floor, or a mess of complicated feelings, I have this sense of urgency to clean it all up and put it on it’s appropriate shelf.

This is a pattern for me. I can often treat my feelings or pieces of my story like a box of Christmas decorations or old baby clothes.

And much like suitcase-living is necessary for a road-trip style vacation, I can’t always shelve the scenes and emotions of my life neatly away. Sometimes I don’t have space on my shelf, or I don’t know how to sort through whatever it is I’m looking at. I can be overwhelmed at the enormity of what I’m holding or have no idea how to sort through my pain or hurt enough to organize it.

I feel desperate in my mess, wanting to move forward as I have been told to do so many times before. “This happened such a long time ago – move on! Get over it!” I hear that again and again. At some point it became important to put my messes on my imaginary shelf and get them out of sight.

Recently, our church home has gone through a very painful tearing. As most church splits tend to go, there are feelings of confusion, betrayal, hurt and abandonment. Relationships are certain to shift and change or even dissolve all together.

For my husband and I, we clearly felt God’s calling and invitation to stay where we were. Even though all of our friends were leaving and there were parts of us that wanted to do the same thing, He asked something different of us. This breaking of a body has left me feeling like I’m sitting in front of a giant open suitcase. There is so much to sift through and feel and look at and deal with. I even told a friend yesterday, “I don’t know where to put all of this!”

I have been desperate to shelve my pain and put it all away, but I can’t.

Anger and contempt have been my go-to emotions. But underneath those feelings and in the stillness, my heart feels a kind of broken that it’s never felt before. Something died and I am grieving that death. It feels like we are breaking up with our friends. So many things feel awkward when only weeks ago, those same faces felt like family to us. It’s a kind of loss, that at times, feels absolutely unbearable.

I am tempted to believe that if I really let myself feel this death, that it will undo me and I will fall apart so completely that I won’t be able to be put back together again. So I try and scramble to put things away and medicate with Netflix and Peanut M&M’s and tell you that I’m okay instead.

But I’m not okay. I’m a mess. This is a mess. And it will take a while to sort through it all. Every Sunday, every day really, I have to make the choice to feel this hurt and enter into this pain.

And then there is Jesus. The One who has wildly and wonderously invited us to this unknown place with Him. Not only is He my Savior and lover of my soul – He is the head of the church. We aren’t simply members of some church. We are His bride, His beloved. He is doing something new and has invited us to Come and See what that is apart from everyone else who has moved on to other places.

If I have any measure of comfort or peace in my heartache, it’s that I know we are going where He is. We have said yes to what He is doing, and we are choosing to believe that He has more for us than this death that we are currently grieving. He has put us in this body for a reason and a purpose. His plans, though often mysterious, are always very, very good.

The suitcase is open. I’m sitting in the mess. And I’m thankful that I’m finding Him in it.

Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.