Without thinking too much about it, I press my finger against the glass face of my iPhone and hold it. Eventually, as I expected, the icons on my screen begin to dance and wiggle. I touch the X on the corner of three apps, and just like that, Angry Birds and the two Bubble games I downloaded on Christmas Day are gone.
“Deleting Angry Birds will also delete all of its data,” my iPhone warns. I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t, so I hit “delete” one last time and it’s gone. Secretly, I wonder if the app is still somehow in my iTunes account. Worst case scenario: I download it again and work on new high scores.
Really? I ask myself, surprised that I am so quickly scheming to restore distraction.
Because that’s really what I’ve just deleted. Not an app, not an addicting little game, not a way to connect with friends. I’ve deleted one more thing that vies for my attention, one more thing to strain my eyes toward and refuse to quit even though I’m tired and need some sleep.
I hit the Home button to exit my Game folder. I wonder why I even have a game folder if I am so committed to less distraction. But then I shut off the phone. And it’s done.
It’s New Year’s Day, and this is step one to living out my word for 2014.
For the past year, I’ve been transitioning from a long-term single life in the city to a new marriage, a new family, a new small town. Though I knew the transition would be difficult, I didn’t anticipate all the ways it would be difficult, or the time it would take to feel comfortable in my new life.
I also didn’t anticipate all the ways I would be tempted to try to hold on to my old life while embracing the new. Sure, I moved all my stuff to my husband’s house and set up a home office where I work and write at least part of most days. We attend church in my new town when our sons are with us every other weekend, and my name was added to the accounts at the bank on the town square.
But I left part of my heart in the city: I continued to own a home there, I still work there, twice a month we drive to church there. My favorite restaurant, my best friends, my cultural entertainment, a large part of my work were firmly centered some place else than here.
In other words, though a change has happened in my life, I wasn’t actually transitioning from old to new. I have been trying to have it all. And it’s not working.
Anatole France, in his novel, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, wrote, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
Now, it’s time to die to my old life.
It’s my new name that I sign to one document after another, indicating that the house I bought on my own a little more than seven years ago will now belong to someone else.
I will be thinking and remembering and mourning over that little house on 79th Street for years to come. Just last night, I tossed and turned in my sleep as I dreamed about moving my belongings out of the house as the new owner was already settling in. Of course, that’s all done. I’ve handed over keys and garage door openers and owners manuals days ago. And before that, every last possession was removed, every last memory was packed into the van, hauled off to Goodwill, or stacked out at the curb for the garbage man to remove.
But the key to dying to my old life was somehow integrally tied to selling those 1,200 square feet encased in stone and hovering over the earth on wood and cinder blocks and a crawl space I never explored. I found love there; I discerned my calling there; I nearly died there. Inside the walls I painted with my own hand on brush, I experienced unimaginable pain and indescribable joy.
The pain and joy will always be mine, but the walls, the ceilings, the fence out back, and the raised bed gardens, those were holding me back.
Once we received the offer and the negotiations were nearly final, something happened in me, something important. A tie was cut, a breath exhaled, an embrace released, and I knew that I could say goodbye to an old life.
I knew it was time to embrace the new life I have already been living.
My dad was the one who told me that I should inform the title company handling our closing about my new name. Not that it would cause any problems, he had said. They just need to know. He was right.
One of the forms I signed that day was a warranty deed, giving the new owner the title to my old house. In that form, I had to agree that “Charity M. Singleton and Charity Singleton Craig are one and the same person.”
I smile now thinking about the reality of that statement. It’s not just legalese. It’s ontological truth. I will die to an old life; I will live a new life. Parts of me will be put to death and other parts will be brought to life. But the essential me, the me I was created to be and am daily being recreated to be, continues on. Old life, new life. A seed falling to the earth and dying. The stem and leaf rising from the earth. The Spirit hovering, the Father speaking, the Son holding everything together.
Since I first began to understand what I am being called to in this new year, I’ve been listening for a word to encapsulate it. I often choose a word or phrase for the year: 2011 gave me “empty;” 2012 was “stay in this.” I didn’t choose a word for 2013, but in looking back, I think it was “change.”
For 2014, though, I wanted something that would express this transformation that needs to happen in me – that IS happening in me. I thought of “focus,” as it’s true that there are too many distractions in my life. I thought of “single-minded” because it’s true that I have been holding on to two lives, and I am called to only one.
But looking at the whole of my life, I realize that there’s more to this issue than just the transition between old and new. The problem is that I am trying to have it all, everything I want. And really, life doesn’t work that way. I need to decide what is most important, what I am most willing to invest my time and energy and life in, and then I need to limit all the rest.
That word right there, “limit,” that’s the word that best captures this whole big project going on in my heart and my life. Selling the house started it, but there are many more tweaks and changes and shifts that need to happen. I’ve made a few of them; others scare me. Many I haven’t even conceived of.
From limiting the number of apps on my iPhone, to limiting my ties to my old life in the city, to limiting the ways I spend my time so I can love my family better and use my gifts better: this is how 2014 is starting out.
And I suspect when 2014 ends, I still be trying to figure out how to limit the desires I have to do it all, and instead, find the very few things I am truly called to, the very “me” that I am daily being created to be.
Friends, thank you for being part of my life and journey. Even as I die to my old life in order to live to the new life I have been given, thankfully, this doesn’t mean leaving behind our friendship and the memories and experiences we’ve shared. Our interactions may change, to be sure, but our relationships also have new potential. I am looking forward to all the ways we can continue to be part of each others lives in 2014 and beyond.
Photo by Ian Wilson, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.