I suspect even the most dedicated collector has favorites. That one quartz he found on vacation as a boy. The postage stamp that came on the first letter from her pen pal.
At least it’s true for me, a recovering doll collector. Of all the dolls in my collection, there are a few that are always top of mind.
There’s the one in the tattered yellow dress. Nancy is her name. She was the one Mom bought me when I was a baby. The one I most liked to play with.
Then, there’s the Madame Alexander doll my best friend’s mom gave me – Cinderella with a shiny blue dress. It had been hers growing up and she wanted me to have it because she knew I’d treasure it. She was right.
But the dolls I always have on display at my house are my matryoshkas. I love the artistry of each nesting doll, and I like the visual reminder that we all have layers of stories to tell just beneath the outer surface.
A few of my Russian nesting dolls show women in intricately painted aprons, and two display Russian cities with shining domes. But my favorite set of dolls shows a series of religious icons, starting with Mary and baby Jesus. Four other icons are inside and sometimes I open up the set and display them all.
The last time I opened them and rearranged them, I paused when I got to the one that showed Jesus as an adult. I admired the gilded halo and the soft eyes, but just as I started to set it down, I noticed the empty shell of the larger doll.
To make room for Jesus, the first shell had to be emptied. The wood had to be carved and shaped and then, ever so carefully, crafted to fit back together.
Is it really so different for us?
For faith to have a place within, something else has to be carved out. Greed and gossip must go because love and humility and sacredness need space to grow.
It’s not an easy process, this letting go of selfishness to make room for what makes our selves better. But it does no good to paint the outside without clearing out the inside because without the clearing, the story ends before its time.
Instead of five nesting dolls, the story stops at four. Or at three.
The beauty that the artist had hoped to share is stunted. The story is shallow and the masterpiece unfinished.
So, we can hold on and remain intact, or we can let go and be made whole.