I can still remember when we moved into our new house several years ago. It had taken us nearly seven years to build it, and as my husband and I stood in the great room looking at the large empty spaces, I made him take a blood oath that the clutter of our previous house was a thing of the past.
You see, my husband is a pack rat. I’ve decided it’s a genetic trait, because my mother-in-law and our oldest daughter are both similarly afflicted. I have also realized that nothing short of murder will change the situation. However, when I brought up the murder option at our last family meeting, the poodle looked so distressed at the thought of losing her armchair companion that I reluctantly backed off. I told my husband I’d give him another chance. I could swear that he and that poodle smirked for just the briefest of moments, but the look was gone so quickly, I couldn’t be sure.
I decided if I was going to live in a clean house, I’d have to take charge with a diligence and fervor unseen before. Like a Captain of the Host, I swung my broom and mop in fiery righteousness, sweeping the junk and dirt out of the house and into the carport.
"Nothing past that carport door until it has a place,” became our (my) new motto. However, I left out one little itty-bitty stipulation that has come back to haunt me. I never said nothing could be added to the original stuff (junk) already there.
That realization hit me over the head like a revelation from God the other day when I had to suck in my stomach (no small feat let me tell you!), turn sideways, and squeeze through the carport door. I never realized how technical my family (including the poodle) had become. They all looked at me with big innocent eyes and wailed, “But you never said . . .!” If I’d had a lightning bolt, I’d have sizzled the hair on all their heads. For a brief moment I could see how hard it would be to be God and have all that power. The temptation to turn everyone into a crispy critter would be overwhelming.
Gritting my teeth, I prayed for patience . . . and immediately begged God to let me take it back.
"Please God,” I sobbed. “I’ll do anything – but please don’t show me how to be patient!”
Seasoned Christians will understand my panic – but for all you newbies out there one thing you NEVER ask for unless you REALLY mean it (and are trying to qualify for sainthood), is patience. You see, God has this delicious sense of humor, and His idea of teaching you how to be patient is to throw you in the situation where you have to have it, and fast. It’s kind of like teaching your teenager to drive. He won’t learn anything until he’s behind the wheel, but you hope that he quickly remembers where the brake pedal is before he plows into that car up ahead.
And for the next several days, I was in some pretty intensive patience-building exercises.
"Throw out all these loose screws and bolts?” my husband asked in horror. “But I might need them for something!”
"Sweetheart,” I said - sweetly. “The stuff those things held together sunk with Noah’s ark. I think it’d be safe to get rid of them.” He clutched the tin even tighter to his chest.
"How do we know that for sure?” he asked. "I think you’re just trying to trick me into chunking this because you can’t see the value of it.” I threw my hands up in disgust and walked away. My daughter was no easier to convince.
"Of course I need all these school papers, mom. They prove I did my work.”
“But honey,” I said with supernatural calm, (I was actually numb, but we won’t get into semantics here), “don’t you think saving all your stuff from the fifth grade is a little overboard?”
My 14-year-old gave me this incredulous look. “But mom, what if Mrs. Eatyourliverout decides she made a mistake and tries to take back my ‘A’?”
I shook my head. I hated to tell her, but I imagine Mrs. Eatyourliverout was only too happy to get my obsessive-compulsive daughter out of her classroom. I can just see my daughter right now, splayed across the lid of her desk, shrieking in indignation. “What do you mean, clean it out? Don’t you understand there’s important stuff in here?”
The next day, after the kids got off to school and my husband left for work, I sorted through the day’s mail. I knew I had to throw away every piece of junk mail before they came home (thank you, Father, for morning delivery) or I’d never be able to wade through the piles. My family actually believed I had convinced everyone to take us off their mailing list. To this day they sing my praises at having accomplished this, and I refuse to tell them any different.
The last envelope in the pile had a familiar handwriting on it, and for a moment I couldn’t place the sender. Then a cold, sinking sensation filled my stomach as I realized who it was from. Anger reared its ugly head as I tore into the letter, and just as quickly disappeared as I started reading.
To say that the sender of that letter and I had parted company under less than favorable terms would be something of an understatement. However, instead of the hate-filled, accusatory letter I had expected, this woman was telling me what God had done in her life. She asked forgiveness for that time of pain and misunderstanding. The pocket of hurt and resentment I had stored away slowly deflated as I read, leaving me with a hollow, empty feeling – as if I was losing something dear and precious to my heart.
As I thought on this surprising twist, I began to wonder how many such things cluttered up my heart, how many “oughts against any” I clung to. Was I the pack rat of the spiritual variety, storing my hurts until I could whip them out at a later date, brandishing them like battle scars before the one who helped create them in the first place? I saw that I could store only so much emotional garbage before it started spilling over into other areas of my life. I never knew quite how far until I stood there that day, a letter seeking forgiveness in my hand, and a heavenly Father whispering in my ear that it was time to get rid of the clutter.
My husband is still a pack rat, and I’ve about given up on the carport. I don’t even bother to open up my oldest daughter’s closet. I figure I’ll have plenty of time to clean it when she moves out in another few years.
As for me, I’m systematically going through my spiritual junk pile, no matter how painful or reluctant I am to get rid of it. I’m determined to keep at it until I’m through, which in my case will probably be sometime after the rapture. I never realized how much junk I had stored away.
But it really doesn’t matter. Unlike my husband and daughter, I’ve decided I like these clean, open spaces much better.
Wow!what a humorous article!Thanks alot for this.There are a lot of things in our lives which need to be discarded for us to get total freedom.Keep up sister writing, it touches many lives out here.Justus
Wow, this was good. I can so relate to the pack rat mama who stores those old resentments. They're like an old, outdated sweater aren't they? It feels so comfortable but it sure is ugly. You had me laughing right up until the double edged sword sliced through and revealed the truth about all of us. We are pack rats and it is good to get rid of the clutter. Well done.