“What’s in all these black trash bags?” my husband asked.
We were spending the first Saturday of 2018 cleaning out the storage room in our basement, which, I’m sad to say, looked more like a dump with a skinny path winding through the debris.
I left the tub I was sorting through and peered into one of the bags.
Stuffed animals, photographs, cards, clothes, letters, jewelry…
“It’s a boyfriend bag,” I told him.
My husband looked around him. “All of them?”
“Yep, all of them.”
We’d witnessed the advent of the boyfriend bag when my daughter broke up with her first steady beau at the age of seventeen. After hours of a bawling meltdown, she marched past me, sniffling and muttering under her breath.
“Where are you going?” I asked her.
“To the garage.”
A few minutes later, she clomped back with a fifty-five gallon black trash bag, went into her bedroom, and slammed the door. From inside, I heard renewed wailing, more talking to herself, and a lot of banging. A half hour later, she emerged with a bulging trash bag, dragged it down the basement stairs, and hauled it into the storage room.
While she was in the basement, I peeked into her room.
Wow. Purged from any sign of boyfriend number one.
Throughout my daughter’s high school and college years, the same pattern occurred again and again: boyfriend breakup, abandoned bawling, toting of the trash bag into her room, the purge, and finally, lugging of the boyfriend bag to its final resting spot—our storage room.
While my husband watched, I stooped down and began digging through the bag, feeling a little funny about invading my daughter’s privacy. “Wow, she was really mad at this one,” I said as I lifted a handful of ripped photographs.
“Should we just throw the bags away?”
“Let me call her and ask.”
“I don’t want them,” my daughter said when I had her on the phone. “Throw them away.”
“But shouldn’t you look through them first?”
“No. Pitch them all.”
I hung up the phone, frowned at the bags, and made a mom decision.
“What are you doing?” my husband asked as I schlepped boyfriend bags out of the storage room and lined them by the couch.
“She needs to sort through these. Trust me.”
A few weeks later, when my daughter visited, I took her downstairs. “Hey, I want you to go through these boyfriend bags.”
“Mom, I said I don’t want them. That’s all in the past, and I’m really happy with Ken now.
“Just make sure there’s nothing you want and see what we can give to Salvation Army, okay?”
My daughter sighed. “Fine.”
I opened the first bag. “Let’s start with this one. It’s the hardest.”
She sat down on the floor and reached into the bag from boyfriend number one, her first love, who was killed in a motorcycle accident during college. From there, we went through the other bags, laughing at silly letters, talking, rolling our eyes at memories. During our perusal, she found a ring and a picture frame that she had accidentally thrown into a bag, and she put some cute stuffed animals and clothes into the donation pile.
And, while she went through those bags, I saw her close those chapters of her young life not only with acceptance, forgiveness, and the relinquishing of resentments, but also with the understanding that those segments were part of the woman she is now.
When she got up and nodded at me, at peace with her past, I closed the boyfriend bags. It was time to throw them away and look toward the future.
Most of us don’t have physical boyfriend bags in our storage room. But maybe we have a friend bag, family bag, even a God bag, stashed away in the depth of our souls. We twist tie that painful memory, along with resentment, anger, hurt, and unforgiveness. We never want to see that bag again, but yet, we don’t throw it away, either. Instead, we store it where it will lay molding and festering in a dark place
Until we go through that bag with God.
The Bible tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)
Our big God promises us that he will use the experiences in that painful bag for good. But first, we need to reopen any stashed-away bags, with God alongside us. God wants to sort through them with us and use the good stuff to further his kingdom. He wants to help us face those unresolved issues of unforgiveness, hurt, and anger—to give them all to him, so that we can heal and move forward in our walk with him. Then, imbued with his peace, we will be confident that God has gleaned what we need from that bag to become stronger Christians and continue along his path.
Finally, we can put the twist tie on that boyfriend bag, thank our heavenly Father for his blessings and provision, and haul it to the trash.
We won’t need it anymore.