September 13, 2010

Dealing with Other People's Junk

The Lord gave me a dream last night, well -- not really, it was more like a conversation this morning that enabled me to envisualize the concept He was teaching to me. In this conversation/dream, we discussed the process of housecleaning (heart cleaning), and the neccessity of removing one's own junk from the recesses of their garage (heart and mind). I don't recall how the conversation began, just that I hooked into this analogy of cleaning one's garage out, and it made such sense to me.

I remember time after time when my parents would say to us kids, "we are going to clean out the garage on Saturday so don't make any plans." This happened every so often in my life, but it always prepped a garage sale or some event such as a change from summer to fall (and preparing for winter and moving the cars into the garage). My Dad is notorious for keeping junk, as Mom calls it, in the garage. They presently live in a lovely home -- but the garage is my mother's thorn. It is full of boxes and my Dad's stuff (some work, some hobby, some storage). It is neatly stored, mind you -- there is just one path in, and one path to the side door. The rest of the floor space is devoted to bins and boxes and old furniture. Stacks of things line the walls, and there is shelving in some places, cupboards in other places. The attic space above the garage holds Christmas things -- so every inch of space has been utilized -- and the garage is chockfull of things.

When I was young, we all had to work to sort, to clean, and then to clear out stuff. We had to take responsibility for that which was ours (like bikes and skates and balls/bats) as well as to help throw away garbage or broken/torn items. Once the garage was emptied, we swept it and often washed it down (hosed it and cleaned it to remove oil or dirt or other stains). Then after a good airing, the stuff (less than before) got moved back in according to my Dad's instructions (the bikes over here, the garbage cans there) so that there would be room for the cars come Winter.

This thrice yearly cleaning ritual was hard work, and none of us kids like doing it. My Mom loved it, and she was so pleased to be able to walk around the garage, not just up and back a little path. I took pride too -- I always liked the way it looked when it was all cleaned out. It was fresh, and not that dark scary place (with stinky smells) anymore.

As God brought this concept up to my rememberance, He enabled me to make the connection between housekeeping a garage and heartcleaning our minds. Jesus instructs us in the importance of not allowing clutter to choke our minds. Paul tells us to keep our minds pure (Phil. 4:8). Furthermore, we are told that we are to "have the mind of Christ," and that in doing so, we will find it easier to keep our minds clear from the junk of the world.

The more I pondered this mental illustration, the more it made sense to me, and the more I came to understand just how important it is to keep our minds clear from the junk of the world. We all have junk. We all have piles of it. However, we don't have to keep the junk -- we can clean house, so to speak, and be liberated from the stores of unwanted things we have collected over the years. Cleaning is not really the issue, as I think most of us, are pretty good at the cleaning bit. The part we all seem to struggle with is the clearing out, the removal of the junk, the letting go of the "treasures" of our hearts. This is where we get ourselves into the thick of things when we refuse to clear out the old stuff, move it out, dispose of it. Instead, we simply shuffle it all around, and try and make room for more stuff.

We hoarde things too, we come to love our "things" and in doing so we begin to suffocate admist all that stuff. So what do we do about it? How do we get rid of the junk in our lives? Easy. We pack it up, and taking it to our Heavenly Disposal Center, we allow Jesus to take it. God doesn't recycle (sorry all you greenies out there); no, God destroys sin and sorrow and the muck of our lives. He doesn't just "clean it up" either. No, God takes the refuse and literally banishes it into a place where we can no longer find it. It is gone permanently, eternally, forever.

We tend to just put our things, our junk, out of mind. You know the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind;" well, that is what we like to do. We don't really want to get rid of the thing, just put it out of sight. God says "this will not do" and then He takes it from us and disposes of it properly. It takes the stinky toxic waste of our lives and makes it disappear. In the process, He cleans us as well, so that we are not only liberated from the stuff, but we are also not left ill because of it. We are healed, we are restored, and we are able to walk away with a clean and decluttered heart and mind.

I have learned this lesson in my life, and most recently discovered that as I have been working to clean house (the Holy Spirit is the leader in this event -- He prompts the clearing, He directs the sorting, and He enables us to let things go), I have come to understand that Jesus accepts large donations just as surely as He will take small things. I have learned that I can back a truck up and pile everything in at once, and Jesus will take it all from me. I don't have to give Him items one at a time. I can do a major dump, and He will tell me "fine." I was very used to doing the one item only routine, and in doing that, I never quite felt good about myself. I was glad to be free, to be liberated from the "thing;" but then I would come home and find a dozen more things sitting there ready to go. This last time, I just loaded the entire truck and took it to Him. I came home to a clean garage, a cleaned space -- freshly washed by the Holy Spirit, and ready for His use. It felt wonderful to be done, really done with the junk in my life. I was relieved, I was emptied of my burdens, and I was able to start to focus on storing up treasures for Him. My garage was meant for His use, not my own; and now the entire space belongs to Him. What a glorious feeling to be free from years of piled up, pent up, and packed up junk.

After this long interpretive dream, I asked the Lord this question: "Lord, what about stuff that doesn't belong to me? What do I do with stuff that other people have either given to me (and I took it) or dumped it on me? How do I get rid of that stuff?" His answer to me was the same -- "Pack it up and bring it to me." But, "what about stuff belonging to my husband (or wife)?" Ah, interesting point -- the Word tells us that marriage causes a man and woman to become one flesh, and in short, part of our garage is set aside for another person (the same with them). Our lives are now comingled with another, and they have access to our storage area. How they use that storage area is a matter of principal, a matter of their spiritual condition, and their willingness to obey the "right of use" priviledges granted to them. In many cases, the spouse is considerate of their mates "space allottment" and will abide by the rules. They will keep what is theirs, share what is to be shared, and then dispose regularly that which is overflowing (both will do this). In turn, this keeps each garage in order, and everything is separate that must be separate, and joined in what must be joined.

In some cases, however, one spouse is attempting to keep their garage clean, but the other spouse is bent on hoarding and not doing their own spiritual cleaning. They collect junk, so much that they start to use their spouses allotted space for their own. Without regard to the restrictions set up, this overflow of junk ends up causes stress and discomfort for the spouse who is trying hard to keep everything tidy. They may attempt to help their spouse "clean up," they may attempt to sort or to declutter. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. They may have a spouse that refuses to do any work at all, and doesn't want their partner to touch their things. What do you do then?

With a spouse that is unwilling to do their own housecleaning, the Holy Spirit of God must enforce the boundaries of limitations upon them. The Holy Spirit is the One who directs the clearing process, and He will not allow your clean and sorted space to become defiled by another persons disgusting junk. No, He will put a stop to it so long as you abide and agree with Him that it is what must be. You must not allow your spouse to freely use your space for his own purposes. No, you must stand on the Word of God and simply say: "take your junk home."

Now, what about those folks out there who try and donate stuff to you? Or the ones who do a "dump and run." These people don't want to dispose of their junk directly -- they want you to do it for them. The best measure is to not accept junk from anyone else. Take care of your own home, and let others take care of theirs. If they won't do that, and many times this is the truth; then, you must let the Holy Spirit of God place a boundary or hedge about you with the warning signs clearly posted: "No dumping allowed. Violaters will be prosecuted (fined)." Yes, it is true. You cannot dump your junk on someone else and then walk away. You will suffer the fine for doing it, and you will be forced to go back and pick it all up. It is best to take care of your own stuff, and do the right thing: take it to Jesus, and let Him dispose of it rightly.

In this long discourse, this is the point I am trying to make. Our junk is the stuff we hide, we store away, and we keep from others seeing. It is sin, yes; but, it is also bitter roots of hurt feelings, disappointments, and disallusionments. It is the stuff we refuse to let go of and the stuff that we tend to bury down deep inside of us. Moreover, it can also be memories of past hurts, traumas we endured, or failures we made ourselves. In short, it is mental and spiritual junk that needs tending to so that it doesn't block out and take over our garage (our heart/mind). God needs a clean house -- His Holy Spirit wants to live in a clean space (He must -- He is Holy), and to do that, work has to be done. How quickly you get at it, is a matter of priority. The sooner, the better (after coming to Christ). And then it is vital to keep your garage in check, always making sure it is well-ordered and clean. The Holy Spirit will stop you if you try and bring in things to store in His Space (once yours, now His). He will ask you not to do it, and you either can listen and abide in Him or you can willingly resist and bring it in anyway. In doing so, you will have to deal with it eventually, and truthfully it is best just not to bring it in.

In the end, this is what I learned:
  • My mind is no longer my own for if I am truly born again, I no longer have my own way; but, my thoughts are now His (I have the mind of Christ)
  • The Holy Spirit of God comes to abide with us, to dwell in us, to make His home with us -- therefore, He cannot do so in a dirty space. It must be clean and kept clean. He will do this, but we must help (we have to do the work).
  • I can say no to others who want to dump their junk on me or give it to me to take it for them. I have enough work on my own, and I don't need to help anyone else with their stuff (now, I am called to bear anothers burden -- but this means to support them, to encourage, to help them -- not take their junk and let them walk away)
  • My spouse has junk of his own. He can take responsibility for his junk or he can try and get me to take it for him. I cannot now. I cannot dispose of other people's junk without God intervening and assisting me. It is best for me to say "No thanks" and keep my space clean.

I am convinced that this is the true nature of human beings, always trying to pass off their sin and it's consequences onto other people. How we deal with our own sin is a major issue for most Christians. We know we are forgiven, but we don't always accept the totality of that forgiveness. Scripture tells us that our sins are forgiven (forever). Moreover, our consciences are cleansed -- our guilt is absolved. We harbor left over copies, reminders of the sin in our storage areas or garages. We keep on remembering them long after the original has been disposed of and destroyed. We need to remember that Christ's atonement was complete and our sins are forgiven. And, we must also remember that it is up to us (and the Holy Spirit of God) to make sure we keep our minds in check, and our hearts free from the burden of new sin and roots of bitterness caused by the sin of others.

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