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Phil Monroe Office

I’ve just moved my office here at the seminary after having been in the same office for 10 years or so. Several months ago I began the move process by weeding my library and paper files. But even as I moved this week into my new digs (for graduates, the counseling department is in the old development office building next to the main building), I am still sorting stuff and deciding whether to keep or throw the various and sundry items I’ve collected over the years.

Here are some of the items I’ve come across for the first time in a while:

  • A plastic box full of my raw data from my doctoral dissertation
  • Notes from classes I’ve taken some 20 years ago
  • Cassette tapes of my first professional conference presentations
  • Miscellaneous articles I’ve read and thought, “wow, that would be good to use in a class”
  • A briefcase of articles and writing drafts on Multiple Personality Disorder back in 1993

Are these treasures or trash? And maybe the most important question is why I feel the urge to keep these old obsolete items. Some of these items (my dissertation raw data and cassette tapes) represent massive portions of my life as I was working to accomplish the goal of getting the position I now have.  Others hold little sentimental value but trigger that little portion of my brain that say, “Maybe I might use this in the future.”

As I have been contemplating my choices, I’ve also considered how this might be a life lesson.

Let Go!

What do you hold on to in your life that may need a good heave ho? We all carry some old baggage from yesteryear: shame, guilt, bitterness, or fantasies of the life we thought we would live?  There are times we create symbolic monuments that serve only to weigh us down and heap discouragement on our souls. Maybe for you, a memory keeps coming back from your past, a memory that reminds you of a failure. And when that memory comes back you repeat a well-rehearsed story line ensuring that you will continue to use that failure to define you present life.

Might it be possible to toss that storyline and practice a new one that is in closer keeping to God’s story about you? Imagine the Israelites continuing to remember their failure to avoid idolatry in this manner: “We’re the people who served idols and wandered in the desert for forty years. We’re the people who forgot God and were carried off by the Babylonians.” Although true, this storyline is not the whole truth. The whole truth includes a new narrative, “We’re the people God has pursued and rescued.” Period. End of story.

Keep It!

Some of the stuff we don’t use anymore still may serve a good purpose. When I look at pictures of my wife on her wedding day I remember the 23 years of God’s faithfulness. Even a pile of useless dissertation material reminds me how God saw me through a doctoral program and paved the way for a great job here at Biblical. It is easy to forget these mercies and gifts. So, feel free to keep a few Ebenezers to remind you of God’s handiwork in your life.


Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.

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