I am a real horror for tidying up.
I don’t mean I don’t do it – that’s the problem. I wish I could be so relaxed! People who go to bed leaving a few papers lying about – I want to be like you. The trouble with me is an unhealthy degree of tidying. Everything has a place, and if it doesn’t, well, its membership of my orderly little household will be seriously questioned.
Being like this can have grave implications for relationships with those you share a living space with. I don’t think my husband (who is a normal person, not a weirdo like me!) will ever completely recover from the time when I recycled absolutely all the information relating to the purchase of his iPad. Especially not on the day it broke. And it’s sad that his penchant for storing vodka in the freezer didn’t survive my last rampant episode of defrosting (oops). My poor son has swiftly found out that it’s important to try and handle all your toys at least once every, ooh, five minutes or so, otherwise there’s a very real danger that they will be diverted to the charity shop down the road. I think I have mentioned before on this blog that his first word was ‘tidy’. Oh dear.
Such has been my desire to organise and clear out that I have even been known to buy things new again when it’s turned out that, er, actually, keeping them somewhere safe might not have been such a terrible idea after all. Suffice to say, I’m a pretty chronic case when it comes to tidiness!
But my spiritual life is different.
Sometimes, people who know what my house looks like seem to assume that my spiritual life must be the same. Well, yes, that’s understandable. If I’m prepared to spend a day clearing out the loft while pregnant, and can’t get to sleep knowing the washing-up hasn’t been done, then surely the same criteria must apply to my relationship with God?
Surely I must be the kind of Christian who starts each day by dedicating it to the Lord? Actually no, the first thing I usually do is look at my iPhone.
The kind of Christian who draws comfort from his word? But first, I’ll draw comfort from the knowledge that the clean laundry has been neatly folded and put away.
Who instantly holds captive every thought that isn’t from him? Who lays down fears and worries at the foot of the cross – as I have a blood-bought right to do? No, I still turn over and over in my mind the image of my newborn baby being inexplicably taken away to an incubator while I remained on the ward with the other mothers and babies all night.
Why oh why do I clear out my loved ones’ belongings without clearing out my own spiritual junk?!
Now before we go any further I must point out that I’m very grateful for grace. If our salvation depended on following the rhythms of organised religion – churchgoing, Bible-reading, being part of a home group – what would be the point even trying?! I also want to point out that however hard we try we cannot change the past. Many readers will have experienced very dark things. But what we do have is a future.
For me, the past has been made much more manageable by my decision to join a church community (actually what has really made the past manageable has been my decision to place my hope in Jesus, but the two things happened at the same time!). One friend in particular within that church community, someone who has been following Jesus for about 30 years, talks a lot in our home group about getting rid of things that ‘get in the way’ of the abundant life Jesus offers. I think I am starting to see what she means and why it is so important to her. God gave us us the very best thing he had, his son, who died instead of us and then rose to life again. By the power of his spirit he speaks today, he heals today, and he wants to walk intimately with each of us. Even better, it works both ways. He loves us too much to let us cling onto our trash. He wants to give us a crown of beauty in exchange for our ashes – but we do need to give him the ashes first!
I am convinced that a time of clearing out rubbish is well overdue. But it’s not necessarily the bin bags of junk in the loft that require attention – and despite what I have told myself in the past, getting rid of them won’t make me feel better about any of my painful memories. Perhaps it’s actually the non-physical things that desperately need to be laid down so that we can just sit quietly at Jesus’ feet. Sit quietly enough that we’ll hear him whisper, ‘You don’t need that old baggage any more, sweetheart – give it to me.’ So that we can see, through an uncluttered lens, that we are ‘rooted and established in love’. That we don’t need to do anything to earn love. That as far as our creator is concerned, we are royalty. That we can be secure in that knowledge alone.