by Kathryn Hauiesen

One of my seminary professors kept a phrase written on the classroom chalkboard: “Every loss is a gain; every gain is a loss.” Life seems to consist of an endless cycle of gains and losses. Along with the losses that come in one form or another, I’ve also gained many possessions; too many to keep as my husband and I now contemplate moving to a retirement community. Like many Baby Boomers, we’re in downsizing mode. Accepting our need to let go of many things does not make this less challenging.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that when I remarried a few years ago, my husband and I merged two full households into one. What didn’t fit went to storage for grandchildren to claim as they set up their first apartments. Now that storage unit is closed. The last few items, along with boxes and boxes of family photos and documents, sit in our garage and dining room.

A garage sale cleared out most of the household items, but not the solid maple kitchen table chairs, which we donated to a local charity that was willing to pick them up. The driver said he was taking our set straight to a family that had lost all their furniture when Hurricane Harvey flooded their home. Hearing this helped me let go of the table. My fond memories of meals around that table won’t be the last. Now our table will host another family, as they create their own memories.

LOSSES AND GAINS

Our home is full of things acquired over decades. Days I once spent shopping I spent hauling loads to various consignment and thrift stores. This process of letting go made me think about the wisdom of Scripture. I don’t want my possessions to possess me, so I’ve had to lose some things I still cherish. At first, letting go of what I’ve treasured feels like a loss, not a gain. Seeing the gain takes time and spiritual eyes rather than physical ones.

The waste-not-want-not philosophy my family instilled in me makes it virtually impossible to throw away perfectly good items. Letting go became easier when I saw how God turned my loss into a blessing for someone else. For example, one downsizing day I decided to find a new home for the box of fabric pieces stored under the bed. I offered the fabric scraps as quilting supplies on an online marketplace. The husband who claimed them said they would be a surprise for his wife. Although multiple sclerosis limits what she can do, she can still sew, he said, adding that these I’ve learned to find joy in letting go, bit by bit. scraps would hopefully encourage her to make the quilt she’d been talking about. My loss became a sign of his devotion to her.

The Rev. Kathryn Hauiesen is a retired pastor who writes, volunteers and serves as an ELCA Mission Investment Fund capital campaign consultant for congregations.

This article is excerpted from the July/August 2020 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.

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