When Letting Go Means Finding Joy

I’ve been madly cleaning out my closet this week. The Marie Kondo bug has hit hard, and I’ve really taken to heart her challenge to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” I’m not usually the type of person to whip into a cleaning frenzy. The thought of reaching into the abyss of my cluttered and chaotic closet is a daunting one as I fear my own lack of resolve, my inability to let go of the things I no longer need or fit into.

Getting rid of clothes, for me, feels like hiking down into a clouded valley – inevitably, at some point, I get stuck, exhausted, and want to quit. But this time is different. Who I am, what defines me, how the world knows and sees me is all a bit of a mess right now, and I’m longing for something to hold onto. I’m looking for joy and perhaps taking back my closet is the first step.

So I plunge in, despite the daunting task ahead. I wade through outfits hidden in the recesses of the closet, and as I do, my life projects in front of me.

There are the shimmery, silky clothes that I used to wear on dates with my husband. Ah, dates. That thing we used to do so regularly before kids. When was the last time we went on a date? I can’t really remember. We have a lot of date-night-ins now after our toddler son and baby girl go to bed. But, let’s be honest, half the time I’m wearing sweatpants. I wouldn’t really call that my “sexy” look.

I reach behind my violin case, reminding me of the days I used to play in an orchestra and practice for hours, and discover crumpled soccer clothes. Did you know I used to play college soccer? I used to be incredibly fit and fast. Oh, I was fast. There was a time when I couldn’t wait to wake up early in the morning, pull on my sneakers, and just run until the sun rose — and very few people could keep up with me.

Now, my belly has become that dreaded belly pouch, flabby and unrecognizable. It glares at me, even under my stretchy yoga pants, reminding me it’s there. I know, I know. I’ve had two kids. But it’s still there, reminding me how hard it is to work out these days because of postpartum complications, because my baby skips naps, because I’m sleep deprived from night-wakings, and because I just don’t have the same drive I used to.

A storm begins to brew around the dimly lit space of my closet. My arms go limp, still holding one of my favorite silky blue blouses, and so many strange and powerful emotions run through me. Who is this woman that I’ve become? That I’m still becoming? Where is the woman of years past? Before I know it, I’m slumped on the ground, tears running hot down my cheeks. I feel tired, weak, and old.

The thing is, I can get lost in this closet. I don’t want to part with my old, pretty tops and dresses because I convince myself that someday, I will return to my former size and don these clothes confidently. Perhaps, I will even return to certain parts of my former life, too.

I can’t say I don’t miss certain parts of my old self. But these days, I’m learning to look forward more than I look back.

God has me and you on a beautiful journey. There are dips and curves, valleys and mountains, good times and hard times, and to each of us He lovingly beckons us to keep moving forward, while keeping our eyes on Him. In Isaiah 43:18–19, God tells us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

My current wilderness is, obviously, much bigger than my closet, but my clothes do serve as a good (or bad) representation of my current struggle. They are the distraction that keeps me stuck in the valley. However, the more of these old clothes I clear out, the better my perspective becomes. The more I rid myself of the things that so easily entangle — these lies and longings and dreamings of the past — the more the fog begins to settle, and the road ahead, a good road, makes itself visible. I begin to take a step forward as my eyes focus more on the things that God has given me in the present – my family, my beautiful children, our church, and our friends – and, if that means seeing nothing but maternity and nursing apparel on my racks, then so be it.

God wants us to look to Him in every stage of life, to see the good that He’s doing, and to enjoy it.

The reorientation of my closest has become part of my journey of finding that spark of joy again. In letting go of certain clothes, I’ve finally started to make peace with closing the chapters of my old life, and I’m beginning to hold onto the beauties of the present more eagerly and excitedly. Joy is on the horizon. I just need to keep walking forward with my eyes held firmly on Christ.

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