My mother is a regular viewer of a TV program about people who hoard. When friends ask how she could watch something so disturbing and often disgusting, her joking reply is that it makes her feel better about the state of our house. People often have a certain morbid fascination with the kinds of things people feel compelled to fill their homes with and their reasons for doing so. Listening to the show participants’ stories, their hoarding tendencies often stem from trauma. At some point in many of the participants’ lives, they suffered from an uncontrollable event like the sudden death of a loved one, devastating fires or floods, being abused or abandoned, or receiving a crippling diagnosis. Controllable objects and the exciting process of finding treasures can become addictive distractions from dealing with internal pain. Of course, the irony is that those objects amass to out-of-control proportions and end up controlling the participants’ lives instead.
Without the support of loved ones, professional cleaners and organizers, therapists, and their wider communities, the chances of the participants clearing their homes, let alone keeping them in good condition, are extraordinarily slim. Isn’t the same true of us? When it comes to what I call “spiritual clutter” — thoughts and feelings we hold onto even though they don’t serve us or God well, habits we prioritize over spiritual disciplines, sin patterns, etc. — we can’t expect to process and ultimately free ourselves of any of it without God’s help. Only God sees the states of our hearts for exactly what they are. Only God knows precisely where and how to start putting our lives into divine order. It is God who raises the support and accountability we need to persevere through this sanctification process.
Submitting to the exhausting, painful, and humbling process of sanctification is not something I can honestly say I do well. I tend to justify the junk of my heart, seeing it as more valuable than it is. But I’m reminded of the uplifting ending of the TV program episodes. Those who push through their coping mechanisms and allow things to go are rewarded with beautiful, welcoming spaces with room for love to come in. Floor-to-ceiling boxes that crowded people out make way for shared meals with friends and family gatherings. It all comes down to choosing which is better.
As we’re on the brink of spring cleaning season for our physical homes, I’m challenged to take inventory of my heart. Is it a fitting home for the Holy Spirit? Am I crowding the Spirit out with distractions? Will I choose to hoard ultimately useless things or commit the space of my heart to God? My prayer for us all is that we might release our spiritual clutter so we can experience the joy of fellowship with the Lord and others.
The RESILIENCE conference in 2021 was so uplifting and nourishing. It was wonderful to be with other Christians around the world at this retreat, who truly care about responding to trauma in a compassionate way by teaching spiritual practices to help with grounding and healing.”
Join us for the next RESILIENCE conference on September 29-30, 2023. Learn more at UpperRoom.org/resilience.