Recently, I was sorting through my cardboard recycling, breaking it down to take to the transfer station. As I was tearing apart boxes and flattening our cartons, it struck me how much of my life I could trace back to the remants in the recycling tub.

I found two pizza boxes from the night I took dinner over to a friend’s house and ended up running around in the back yard most of the evening with her two young sons. I folded up a carry-out container from an afternoon meal with a friend from out of town. I locked my keys in the car that day, and our time together took a much different turn than we had planned. There was a Coca Cola box which once housed 12 cans of pop, and it struck me as out of place since I don’t buy or drink cola. Then I remembered it was one of the many items that had been discarded by one of many pedestrians and motorists who mistake my front yard for a trash can. I recycle as much of the refuse as I can, which I figure is better than if they actually had thrown it in a trash can.

This pile of refuge I was sorting through baecame a tangible version of the memories I store in my mind for years, even decades. Every once in a while, I pull them out and run through the stories that have shaped my life. The memories that still have purpose are the ones I recycle, going over the details so I can glean more growth, more gladness.

Some memories were thrown away immediately because they were too embarrassing or too painful. I didn’t try to recycle them; I put them directly into the garbage. I’ll probably run across them again some day in a different package or in a different place. And this time, when I’m through with them, I’ll look for ways to give them a second life.

Some of the memories have been kept too long, however. They’ve been gone over enough, and their beginning to smell. I keep them though, hoping they’ll have a usefulness again someday. Holding on to them seems like the easy thing to do, but the longer I hold onto them the harder it will be so someday let go.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13b-14

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