Monday, August 29, 2011

A Reflection of the Heart

cluttery heart
This was my front porch a little over a year ago.
A big cluttery mess. Almost worthy of a visit from "Hoarders"
Have you ever just been sitting there in church, minding your own business, and all of a sudden God drops a megaton of revelation into your lap? And then you realize that He probably wants you to do something about that? Something that is most likely difficult and unpleasant? That’s what happened to me today, and it kind of tied up some loose ends for me in the Processing What I Heard At The Women Of Faith Conference I attended last weekend. Finally, I feel ready to blog about it, but I’m also left with some hard decisions to make.

That’s exactly what happened to me this morning at church. I’m just sitting there listening to the pastor, minding my own business. Not looking for the proverbial choir of angels to break out in the hallelujah chorus right above me, or even just one of those evil incandescent light bulbs to pop on over my head, destroying the environment in all its megawatt-ness. I just wanted to have a nice morning at church, you see. I didn’t want to have to come face-to-face with a difficult truth.

Let me back up a bit, so you can fully appreciate the revelation I received.

A few weeks ago, my bestie told me she won tickets to the Women of Faith conference in Indianapolis. She wanted me to go with her and that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I went to one years ago, but only for one day…this was for both days! I know that someone who lives in a very hot place didn’t want us to go. We encountered quite a few obstacles, but in the end, God made it happen. We had a great time of bestie bonding, lots of laughs and some really yummy pitas! We also were served some quality "meat" from the speakers.

Dr. Henry Cloud talked about necessary endings (I definitely want to read his book by the same name) and how everyone needs a monkey in their cage to help them through stressful times.  Sheila Walsh is one of those speakers that I could listen to for hours and hours. Something she said socked me in the gut: “Guilt says you’ve done something wrong, shame says you ARE something wrong.” Nicole Johnson said something that brought tears to my eyes, as I could so relate to this…”Are you there God? Did you see what happened? Because that really, really hurt.” She also said something that I need to examine further in my own heart: “God-anger will destroy our families, paralyze our husbands and terrify our children.” And Lisa Harper was great too. The thing that stuck out to me during her talks was that “all addictions are a disorder of misplaced worship.” Ouch…

I’ve had my share of heart-wrenching experiences, but I’ve never lost a child and I don’t know if I could get up in front of thousands of people to relive that even one time, let alone multiple times. But the testimony of God’s grace and tender mercy that Angie Smith shared is simply amazing and definitely encouraging. You can read about Angie Smith’s daughter Audrey, here at her blog. Just be sure to grab a couple of boxes of tissues. Lucy Swindoll was very positive and upbeat while encouraging us to live life with no regrets…I guess she was the balance to all the heartbreaking testimonies before her.

Between when my friend found out she won the tickets and now, I have become obsessed with watching the show “Hoarders” on Netflix. I don’t know what I’ll do when my free subscription is up, I really don’t like to pay for stuff like that but I just love this show. Partly because it inspires me to clean and declutter, partly because I can really empathize with those poor people. Many have had a tragedy occur in their lives that turns messy and disorganized into hoarding so bad that the homes are unfit for human, or even animal, habitation. I recognize some of their thought processes and justifications. I have experienced that feeling that comes over them when they try to part with something and just can’t. I can’t explain it, it’s almost like a dark shroud envelops you and you just can’t think of anything other than the anxiety you’d feel at getting rid of something. You simply must keep it, even though you haven’t looked at it in 10 years. And then I think, “Am I just one tragedy away from becoming one of those crazy cat-lady hoarders?”  It’s scary to think that I just might be that close.

That being said, I have made significant strides over the years in overcoming clutter. I’ve found that as I have dealt with the internal junk and clutter, the external clutter becomes easier to deal with. I still have too much stuff, and having a three year old in the house doesn’t help, si I have resigned myself to the fact that for the next few years at least there will be a definite “lived in” look to our home. I can deal with that. 

It wasn’t until church this morning that I made the connection between what I heard at WOF and have seen on Hoarders…and my heart. The speakers at WOF were amazing…each one touching on an area in my heart, mind or life that could use some attention. The main theme for the weekend  seemed to be Letting Go. Letting go of the things that hold us back…the old wounds that hinder our ability to be all that God has designed us to be, the old thought patterns (or internal scripts as the psychologists on Hoarders call them) and ways of justifying the things in our lives that we are not particularly fond of (like my quick-flaring temper or my tendency to turn to food for comfort, for example). It’s easy to accept letting go of the bad things, but harder to  let go of dreams yet unrealized and people we love and trusting God with those precious things.

What on earth, you’re probably thinking, does any of that have to do with “Hoarders”? As I sat there this morning listening to my pastor, I suddenly got this flash of an image in my mind, probably some conglomeration of all the hoarders’ houses I've seen in the past few weeks, and I realized that…

I am a Spiritual Hoarder

No, I don’t have thousands of bibles stacked all over my house or feel paralyzing anxiety over throwing away a church bulletin. God showed me that I have rooms in my heart that are, just like the homes on that show, packed from floor to ceiling with junk. It’s been there for decades. It’s dirty. It’s unhealthy. I don’t even know what most of it is because I haven’t seen it in years. And yet, I can’t get rid of it. I can’t let it go. I actually feel anxious at the thought of throwing it out without looking at it, touching it, reliving it. And I can’t bring myself to to that, either.

God wants me to have a clean heart. I want me to have a clean heart. But I don’t want to go through an excruciating process to get one. Our pastor read out of Leviticus 6:9-13
9"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen trousers he shall put on his body, and take up the ashes of the burnt offering which the fire has consumed on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. 11Then he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.
I’ve heard this teaching before, about keeping the altar clear of ashes. Keeping the junk out of our hearts. But somehow, in light of realizing that my heart has too many areas full of garbage, it just really seems to hit home. I need to let God into those rooms. I need to let Him in to burn it all up. And I need to be diligent in keeping the ashes cleared. Do you know what happens to a fire when the ashes are not removed? It chokes and dies. God says the fire is to always be burning on the altar…and if my heart is the altar, do I want the holy fire of God to burn out within it?

The hoarders on the show agree to let a team of people come in and clear out the junk in their homes. Other people come in to clean areas that haven’t seen a broom or soap or water in years. It’s nasty work in a lot of cases. I am truly impressed by the gentleness, respect and grace they show to the hoarders. In fact, a couple episodes showed people praying beforehand, and one in particular was a group of ladies from a maid service…who prayed to be a blessing to the person and ended it in Jesus’ name. That kind of blew me away.

I have had my share of shame so I know the feeling all too well, but I can’t fully imagine the shame associated with the amount of filth in some of these homes. I cried when one lady shared that her own mother would tell her all the time that she hated her and wished she’d never been born or that she had given her away. I have long believed the condition of our hearts is reflected in our homes. This lady basically lived in a landfill. She felt worthless and unlovable. I just wanted to hug her and tell her that she is not worthless. That Jesus loves her. That He wanted her, even if her mother didn't. What a waste of a precious life – she was in her 70’s I think.

I know that as the rooms in my heart are cleared out, that the Father will be gentle and loving. He will not condemn me or shame me. He will clean up the mess in my heart and make it beautiful, just as He always intended for it to be. But once again, it’s my choice. It’s always my choice to make…

cozy nook
This is my front porch after some serious decluttering. A beautiful, cozy space. This is what I want my heart to be like...

1 comment:

  1. I'm not gonna read your blog anymore if you keep hitting the parts that make me go OUCH!!! :)
    thanks for the reminder!!!


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