The best advice I’ve gotten about moving so far? Get boxes from the liquor store.
That’s not to say I bought the liquor inside them. I didn’t, although more than one friend has inquired about such while helping me pack. I simply went by the spirits store nearest our house, asked for boxes, and came out with a truckload of cardboard cases that once held whiskey, tequila, wine, vodka, and a rum with the dubious moniker The Kraken.
Why do these boxes work so well? In part because liquor is expensive. The packaging companies don’t want their product or profits to spill from broken bottles. So they pack them in sturdy, well-made boxes. On top of that, the boxes are small, presumably to minimize losses in the unfortunate instance of a dropped case. Movers can pack plenty in them without worry that they will be too heavy or cumbersome, as appliance boxes tend to be.
Not only are liquor boxes useful, they are a great practical joke. Although
there would be nothing at all funny about someone consuming 30 boxes worth of hard liquor, it is funny to watch people—particularly in the Bible Belt, where I currently live—step out of the unloading line for hushed conversations about why the preacher would be moving that much alcohol into the parsonage.
At it’s core, however, my affinity for using liquor boxes is utilitarian. They worked to accomplish the purpose of their original design. They work just as well when re-purposed.
But they can’t accomplish both at once.
I thought about this as I packed my office last week. Had those boxes been full, they would have been no use to me, no matter what they contained. I have things—books and Cardinals’ paraphernalia, mostly—that are important enough for me to haul a thousand miles north to my next appointment. I only have so many boxes, and each one has only so much space. Anything already in my boxes would waste space at best and thwart my prioritizing at worst.
It’s also true on a metaphorical level.
Like any pastor anywhere, I have accumulated a hodgepodge of emotional memories in my time at Arkansas State University. Baptisms. Weddings. Sacred conversations. Moments of victory. Frustrations. Broken promises. Falsehoods and failures.
If I only have so much space, which of those will I prioritize?
The answer seems obvious enough: accentuate the positive! But the actual packing tells me that turning the obvious into practice is easier said than done. No matter. Jesus went out of his way to make sure his followers knew that “easy” was never a criteria for faithful actions. I know what I have to do.
And I want to do it. I want to carry with me the best of what I’ve been part of in ministry in Arkansas, and to jettison the rest. So I’m mentally piling up the bad memories—few in number, but strong in emotional pull—and throwing them into the dumpster. The good memories are going with me, in boxes repurposed for a better spirit.