When I walked into my son’s room, I about lost my cool with him. He seemingly loves to pull out everything he owns to play with then leave it laying strewn about, not a care in the world. Before he knows it, there is no floor in sight, only legos, action figures, paper and crayons as far as my eyes can see. It is very overwhelming to him when he hears he has to clean it up. He claims it’s better to live with everything all over the place or under the bed if it needs to be cleaned for friends coming over. I, however, knowing better from years of cramming stuff myself, insist that putting his affects in their proper place is a good habit to start.
Often, I have to take him by the hand and help him know how to get the mess back in order. We need to decide what is trash we can throw away, what is broke beyond repair, what goes on the shelf and what we keep accessible to play with.
As I stare at this unbelievable mound of “stuff,” I can’t help but think about how I have lived in my own state of discombobulation: lies that invade my thinking daily, the regrets and shame of living out a rebellious adolescence, and the striving I can still use to try to earn worth, though I should know better. Like my son, who has exhausted toy hiding spots, camouflaging it, and the desperate “closet-shove,” I have done the same to resemble someone who has it together. All the while living in fear that the closet door which hides the “unacceptable” would somehow burst open, and I would be revealed, fake and flawed.
It has never been God’s intention for us to try to look acceptable, all the while struggling under the weight of our messes. Much like I am trying to instill in my son during these cleaning sessions, God wants us to know that there is a process He will walk us through to live in the new, clutter free space of being His. We can come to Him, like a child, knowing we’ve got crap all over the place, knowing He’s never going to be the dad that yells and sends us off to figure it out on our own, or judge us because we can’t seem to keep it together. He wants to take us by the hand and guide us every step of the way.
First step: STOP EATING CANDY UNDER THE BED! I find empty candy wrappers under my son’s bed, and when I meet his eyes upon my discovery, there is guilt and shame. Because he knows better! We are knowingly doing things that we need to face as they are- unhealthy, self-indulgent, and destructive. God gives us the discernment to see these as they are, and then the courage to straight up tell ourselves that these do not serve us well; they only stand to wear us down with a compromise here and there and we end up in a place we never wanted to go. How can we identify these thoughts and actions? They are the ones we try to hide or justify. But, try as we may, God sees the “candy wrappers” and will prompt us to address the issue and throw away the trash!
Then, we come across the broken things. I can’t tell you how many action figures have been dismembered- limbs lost never to be found again- and yet my son can’t part with! For us this may be false identities we are holding onto, strongholds, regrets, fear, and much like the toy that needs to be relinquished, God sees the parts of us that aren’t a reflection of Himself and calls us to release them. Unlike the candy wrappers that are obviously toxic, these thoughts, experiences or beliefs may have deeper roots and attachments that though are painful and do not resemble truth, are harder to let go. The striving feels like you are finally doing something good. The fear-based living keeps you from getting hurt again. The memory of who you once were keeps you focused on being better, being perfect. But when the truth comes into play, it reveals these thoughts for what they are: broken. You aren’t the sum of your mistakes, you aren’t the person you used to be, you have more love to give than you know, and you have already been made perfect in your weakness by His strength. It’s time to let the broken parts go to “toy heaven.” Let God remove the wound and heal your heart.
Finally, we look at what’s left- what we keep. Some of what’s left goes on the shelf: experiences that have shaped us. Good AND bad. Not every bad experience or feeling is meant to get tossed. We have persevered through hardships, sustained battle scars and by the grace of God made it out alive. We’ve learned and God has a place for certain lessons in life. While some stay on the shelf of our memory to remind us where we have been, others will be taken off the shelf to use to help encourage and empathize with others. Some will be put in a treasure box, only to be looked at while giving praise to God for bringing you out of the pit. He will use all the things for His glory- and while His design isn’t for you to carry around the guilt or shame associated- that gets trashed!- He doesn’t want us to forget where we came from, what He did in us, because our stories will help others find hope.
God says when we are His we are made new, that we can embrace the totality of grace in a second and change our habits and thinking, even if our habits and thinking feel like they need more of a major over-haul (mine sure did)! The most important part of the process is that God always goes with us. He’s always patient, He never gets frustrated, no matter how long it’s taking, or how you may dawdle and get distracted. Begin together, process together and persevere together.
“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13