My garage and my office will attest to the fact that I keep stuff. Lots of it. Sometimes it's practical. (See above.) Sometimes it's sentimental. ("I need to keep that lint because it was in my pocket when Cindy and I drove to Nashville for the first time.")
I hold on to other stuff, too--stuff that doesn't clutter my physical space but my mental and spiritual space. I hold on to criticisms that were voiced years ago; those comments may not still apply (if they ever did) and may not even come from a credible source, but they remain in my head. I hold on to mistakes I made (even if I didn't know any better). I hold on to past triumphs. I hold on to dreams, ones that may not even apply now.
God has been saying a lot about the past lately. I hear songs that include "not looking back" or "letting go." (No, not that Elsa song.) I read an admonition to not put hand to plow and look back (Luke 9:62). I read encouragement to forget what is behind and press on ahead (Philippians 3:13).
I should remember the lessons of the past; I don't need to make the same mistakes again. I should remember experiences from the past; memories are powerful connections and those experiences make me who I am today.
But I don't need to hold on to the past. If I hold on to all those things, my hands are too full. Too full to hold on to Jesus as I should. Too full to accept the things that are coming to me now. If my mind and heart are so full of what I did and should have done and should not have done and could have done, they cannot be engaged in what I'm being called to do now.
A few years ago, my grandmother died. She left me her old upright piano. I love that piano. I listened to her play it (when I could coax her to do so). I sat for hours and pecked out songs from an old hymnal propped open on it. That piano is a connection between my grandmother and me. I cherish the fact that she left it to me. But it is in Texas and I am here. I have no place for it. For the years since she died, it has sat in her drafty old house, waiting for the time I could make space and bring it here. After much thinking and some talking with my mom, I let it go. I told my mom to pass it on to someone who could use it. My memories are not with that piano; the love and connection I feel with my grandmother is always with me. Now the piano is going to a young lady just beginning her career as a musician and educator. Letting go has breathed new life into the piano and extended a legacy that it would not have otherwise had.
I must let go of the past. I must let go of what I think the future should be. I must hold on to God and His promises. I must hold on Him. And follow His plan instead of mine.