Cleansing for a Cluttered Heart

Originally published Tuesday, 19 November 2013.

Sitting on the concrete garage floor, I surveyed the artifacts from my life. Piles of school papers surrounded me. Photos from friends all the way back to elementary school lay scattered about. Awards, ribbons, Brownie patches, drawings, writings, and more lay there waiting for me to make a decision.

What would I get rid of?

For my birthday last month, I requested a family garage cleaning day. The garage had become an eye sore over the past year. It was littered with piles of things we didn't know what to do with or where to put them. No doubt, the garage was in desperate need of cleaning, organizing, and purging.

Part of that purging process involved me going through my bins of memorabilia from birth to the day I got married. (I think I had every worksheet I completed in 6th grade alone!) While there were things I wanted to save like the newspaper I started in high school, awards from fine art competitions, drawings, articles I wrote for the church newsletter, and yes, maybe even a troll doll--I didn't need the rest.

Cleaning out the garage is an overwhelming process. It made me think of other areas in my life that needed cleaning out, like my heart. It gets filled and cluttered and could use its own organizing, cleansing and purging. Sins, idols, guilt's, fears, worries, and baggage from the past all lay piled up, taking over space meant for God alone. I carry these things in my heart around with me wherever I go. They weigh me down, drag me down, and pin me down.

Sometimes, I wonder, can my home be a physical representation of what is going on in my heart? When it is disorganized, piled up, in chaos and disarray, could it be because my heart is in disarray? As I avoid and dread the cleaning up in my house, are there things in my heart I avoid facing? The more piles and clutter I create in my physical space, does it equal the clutter in my own heart?

And then when my home is spotless and I have an absolute "no touch policy" for the kids, when I'm consumed with keeping everything spotless and perfect, does it reflect an internal obsession with self-righteousness, self-reliance, and spiritual superiority?

If so, perhaps these messes, like that in my garage, are warning signs for me that my heart needs cleansing.

My son received the book Pilgrim's Progress for his birthday. We've been reading it together at night before bed. One of his first comments was, "Their names reflect who they are!" That's because there's Hopeful, Faithful, Obstinate, Pliable, Charity, Mistrust, and Graceless, just to name a few. If my name reflected my own heart, many times I would go by the names Worrisome, Fearful, Overwhelmed, and Discouraged.

In the allegory, Christian is on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. He carries a great burden on his back that slows him down. Once he even falls into the Slough of Despond. It isn't until he arrives to the foot of the cross that his burden falls off his back, freeing him forever.

The great irony is, I am not bound by my burdens. The baggage I carry around in my heart--its bonds have already been cut. Christ bore each and every burden, every sin and all my guilt and shame on the cross for me so I wouldn't have to. So the question is, why do I continue to carry around guilt, worries, and sins if I don't have to? Like my bins full of papers and things I can't even remember doing or remember why I bothered to keep them--why do I carry around such baggage in my heart?

The great wonder and glory of the gospel is that Jesus didn't just save me once at the cross and then send me on my merry way. My Christian life isn't like how many view it, an opportunity for a clean slate, a kind of do-over. Rather, the gospel is available to me every moment of every day. Like Christian, I need to bring my burdens to Christ and his blood will cover them all.

Walking out into the garage now doesn't fill me with dread. I don't hate going out there anymore. Getting rid of all the stuff we no longer needed was freeing. When it comes to my heart, I can feel that same sense of freedom. Heart cleansing is available to me whenever I need it. And like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, I can walk the journey of faith to the Celestial City weightless and burden free.

So, the garage is down. Up next--the closets!