“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9
I really need to clean out my closet. The task is one I’ve intended to deal with for some time now, but this week I discovered the motivation necessary to get the job done. I watched Hoarders.
In case you’ve never watched the program, let me explain. Hoarders gives you an up close and personal look at the living conditions of, yes, you guessed it, hoarders. All you need to do is watch this show one time, and you’ll be cured of the desire to keep anything in your home that isn’t essential to your daily survival. Refrigerators and freezers bulging with expired food, layers of dirty laundry serving as wall-to-wall carpeting, and piles of garbage littering floors, countertops, and furniture—these are just a few of the horrors hidden within the walls of a hoarder’s home.
While some hoarders recognize they have a problem, others believe their behavior is entirely reasonable. After all, there may be a day when they need that rusted-out toaster with the missing cord. Their stuff provides them with security. If everyone he knows abandons him, at least the hoarder won’t be alone–his stuff will always be with him. Oftentimes a hoarder’s bizarre behavior forces him to a crossroads—he can have relationships with people or he can keep his stuff. Relationships rarely win out.
I watch each episode in a state of perpetual astonishment. How could anyone live like this? Don’t they realize how messed up this is? Why in the world would someone feel so attached to things that are entirely worthless? Although I can’t imagine living with such an unhealthy attachment to material possessions, I’ve recently realized that I have a tendency to do a little hoarding of my own. I’m not talking about the clutter in my closet this time; I’m talking about the clutter that often crowds my soul. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.
There’s a tendency within many of us to hoard the hurts we’ve experienced in life just like a hoarder piles up his treasured possessions. Imagine that your heart is a home. Is it clean and organized or cluttered and crowded with unresolved conflict, bitterness, and unforgiveness? Perhaps in one room you keep stacks of boxes stuffed with memories of wrongs done to you by your parents, in another, towers of old catalogs, each one filled with records of the sins your husband has committed against you. Other rooms are nearly uninhabitable due to the piles of unkind words, demeaning looks, forgotten birthdays, unnoticed efforts, and unspoken encouragement that have caused you pain and now remain forever preserved as a part of who you are.
If you’re like me, you probably know how destructive this practice is, this storing up of every hurt and wrong ever committed against you, yet somehow, all of this stuff gives you a sense of security. There may come a day when someone hurts you again, and you’ll need access to that list of offenses you’ve kept track of through the years to show them how great their sins are and why they’re unworthy of your forgiveness. You simply can’t bring yourself to throw it away.
Just like a hoarder’s experience, when we hold on to bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness, we’ll soon find our hearts too crowded to maintain relationships. Although they may begin by occupying only a small corner of our souls, sinful attitudes quickly multiply, attracting more and more garbage until eventually we have no space for fellowship with God or anyone else. Our Lord stands outside and knocks, but our worthless collection of bitter memories will prevent us from budging the door from its place.
How are we ever to clean a mess this big? Such a job is too great for us to handle on our own; we need the Holy Spirit’s help to empty our hearts of the trash we’ve been packing away over the years. Confession, repentance, and forgiveness–this is the Christian’s cleaning cycle, the process that frees our hearts to love God and others as we should. It’s not easy to let go of hurts we’ve held on to for so long, but our Savior lovingly guides us to see how damaging our bitterness is. He reminds us, ”Because I’ve forgiven you, you have the power to forgive others. Because I’ve cleansed you of your sins, you can wipe away the record of offenses committed against you. Your security is not in your memories; it’s in Me. Let go of those things; you don’t need them. All you need is Me.”
Do you have the heart of a hoarder? It’s time to clean house. ”Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24)