To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven . . .
A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away . . .
(The Book of Ecclesiastes)
BY OUR NATURE AND INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY, SOME OF US ARE KEEPERS AND SOME ARE NOT. The keepers are those who never throw anything away (“I might need it someday”). At the other extreme are those who get rid of everything except what they need right now (“If I don’t need it today, I won’t ever need it”). Neither trait is inherently right or wrong, but today let’s meditate on the fact that some things in life do need to be kept — and kept carefully.
It takes wisdom, of course, to know what to keep and what not to keep, and wisdom always seems to be in short supply. If we knew what we were going to need and not need in the future, it would be easy to manage the matter of keeping and not keeping. But none of us knows the future, so decisions about keeping have to be made using our best judgment. Dinah Maria Craik laid down one of the most challenging principles in life when she said, “Keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
Whatever should be kept, should be kept gratefully and faithfully. Our blessings ought to be maintained with a stewardship that indicates our appreciation of the value of what’s in our keeping.
There is even a sense in which our inner lives have to be “kept.” Just as our houses and our physical bodies can be “unkept” (or “unkempt”), so our hearts can be also. There is a certain amount of maintenance that goes into the keeping of our inner lives, and poor heartkeeping is a far worse habit than poor housekeeping. As Mark Twain said, “Be careless in your dress, if you must, but keep a tidy soul.” That echoes a sentiment from the Book of Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
On the highest level, however, that which must be kept is our duty. All of us have responsibilities that are attached to the various roles we fill. Almost always, these responsibilities are privileges — we are blessed to have these duties to carry out. So we live life at its best when we faithfully maintain (or “keep”) our commitments. Whatever else we throw away, we must not discard our duties.
“A charge to keep I have . . .” (Charles Wesley).