I have one more year left in my twenties. Some might say I’m a young spring chicken with barely any life under my belt (but we don’t wear belts anymore, thank you, high-waisted jeans!). That’s not untrue. I am pretty young in the grand scheme of things, but as I consider the seasons that have swooped me up like a tornado and dropped me off at the doorstep of change and transformation, I’m well aware of the ways I’ve had to prune, shed, and say goodbye to the layers, mechanisms, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that don’t serve me anymore. And the ability to do that, I would say, is a timeless gift.
Have you ever had to commit someone you love to the ground? I remember the day, after a long week of unexpected mortician visits, and death casseroles, and I’m-sorry-for-your-loss flower arrangements after my dad’s passing, that we had to commit him to the ground—to bury him.
My family and some local relatives all gathered around a freshly dug gravesite. It was one of those days when we had to pull out something nice from our closet, something that screams I can sort of grieve with a little class, but also something that you’d want to be okay never wearing again because honestly, who wants to remember that this was the gray, almost too busty dress that I buried my deceased father in? I selected something from my older sister’s closet, which I regret because I remember my legs sticking together from the heat.
People came. My mom, sisters, and I sat in the first row, barely speaking to anyone else. I just wanted this to be over. I stared at my dad’s body, lying still in the casket, and thought that his embalmed body looked nothing like him. He was too shiny, too puffy, and his hands looked weird. As I stared, I thought a host of things, but I remember the moment I realized pain was inevitable. As we faced the prospect of burying my dad six feet underground, I remember (like a pair of pre-baby jeans that I have to wiggle myself into, only to realize these jeans don’t serve my body anymore) this belief I seemed to hold about a life apart from pain or suffering or struggle was discarded because that wasn’t my reality anymore. The belief that I could somehow escape the touch of death or pain in this life no longer served me, however unconscious it had been up until that point.
My new reality was breaking through.
So, as I said goodbye to my dad, as if he could actually hear me, I laid an unhelpful belief to rest.
Through seasons and years that followed, as if I were hosting an ongoing rummage sale, I continued saying goodbye to the things that no longer served me. As I worked with college students, and in the church, I laid down more assumptions and biases I held; I laid down theological certainty and a need to be right. As we moved across the Midwest, welcomed our first child, started new jobs, and lived in a pandemic world no one recognized, I said goodbye to independence, to self-reliance, to a me-centered world where my entitlement was valued above love of my neighbor. As I marched, speaking the name of George Floyd, I said goodbye to my need to feel comfortable and to be complacent with injustice.
As I discovered more deeply the art of shepherding God’s people, I laid to rest my need for efficiency, my uncertainty about my giftings, and my belief that I didn’t belong in pastoral spaces. As I had holy, surprising encounters with amazing, powerhouse women who exude the presence of the Lord, I was challenged to say goodbye to asking permission to live my calling; I was challenged to soften my perspective towards folks whose actions really anger me; I was invited to say goodbye to the narrative that people are rooting for me to fail.
The list could go on. Just like we stretch, and wiggle, and adjust the clothes that no longer fit or serve the bodies we inhabit, we sometimes need to adjust and stretch and wiggle or even purge the beliefs, attitudes, and narratives that no longer serve us and lead us toward greater consolation. We need to take on the mentality of Marie Kondo and simply thank those things and say goodbye to them.
As I enter the last year of my twenties, I am deeply honored and grateful to have, well, gotten to be me. Of course, as we say goodbye to layers or beliefs or attitudes, we also pull up a seat for new ones at the table. We remold or, rather, are remolded by the Spirit into new creations.
The old has gone, and the new has come.
Haley Wiggers is passionate about discovering how the messy, painful, and unexpected gifts that come with being human connect, relate to, and offer understanding of how God relates to and cares for us. She’s been married to her husband and loving partner Tyson for seven years, and together they have a nearly three-year-old, Theo. Haley is learning to notice, lean in, and respond to all the invitations God offers through parenting, pastoring, mentoring, marriage, friendship, and the fullness of life. Haley is a certified Spiritual Director and has found it to truly be a gift to companion with people as they attend to God.