by Joanie Butman

As you may have surmised from my recent post, I am just emerging from my annual holiday fugue state. This year seemed like the longest Christmas season ever. I bid farewell to the holidays with this one comment: togetherness is highly overrated – at least as it pertains to college-age children returning to the nest. I was happy to shuffle them off back to college. Does that make me a bad mother or just an honest one? Regardless, I was looking forward to getting my house back in shape in a number of ways.

The first order of business was the mountain of sheets and towels left by an army of relatives. I will have to remind them of the BYOSH&T policy next year (bring your own sheets and towels)! Then I tackled the trees and decorations, all the while promising myself once again to simplify next year. Then the real cleansing began.

My husband and I decided to put our house on the market, and the Christmas cleanup just melded into the purging process. January is the perfect time to start this Herculean task, as who doesn’t want to begin the New Year leaving their ‘junk’ behind – physically, mentally and spiritually. At this juncture of my life, I’m ready to clean house on every level. As my family will attest, when I go into purge mode, I am ruthless, which is why I have to do it when no one else is around. There is no room for sentimentality in this process. Really, how many ‘participation’ trophies does one need to affirm their self-worth?

It’s a well-known phenomenon that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it. Never is this truer than what we store in our hearts and minds. I wish I could hold an estate sale for the garbage I lug around needlessly from one year to the next, whether it be bad habits, grudges, regrets or even the growing number of excess pounds I’ve accrued, though the regrets are far more weighty than any scale would indicate. And oh, how I wish I could be just as ruthless with the clutter of my mind and soul! That’s an exercise that has a much more profound impact on my life than discarding any array of trophies, old sports equipment or antiquated electronics that tend to accumulate.

I enlisted the help of a friend, and we’ve spent this week schlepping carloads of stuff to storage, thrift shops, and the dump. I was shocked (and a little insulted) when I brought photos of some of the bigger items to a local consignment shop who politely informed me that no one would want my 'stuff.' Still, there are endless opportunities to recycle unwanted furniture and tchotchkes. That said, there is only one place I know of to deposit your more personal trash and that is at the foot of the cross. Christ can take any hurt, habit or hang- up we offer and transform it into something beautiful. He wastes nothing. He takes our useless junk and utilizes it for His purposes. He is the ultimate alchemist. He, too, has a BYOSH&T policy, but it has nothing to do with bedding!

Consider it a form of worship. Yes, Christ wants the offering of our gifts and talents in service to Him. But that’s not all. He wants all of us – especially the parts we’d just assume keep hidden in the recesses of our heart. By offering Him those things, we exhibit our faith in the transforming power of His love and mercy. I think that honors Him more than any act of service, which frequently comes with the temptation to feel more deserving than we are.

While I may be cleaning out the entirety of my house, it’s always a good idea to choose to start the New Year or each new day or even hour by doing a spiritual cleansing of the attic of your soul, where clutter tends to pile up affecting your relationship with Christ and consequently every other relationship in your life. You will feel so much lighter, freed from the weight of your past or the fears for your future.

I’ll close with a Godwink. The morning after I finished this essay, one of my devotionals concluded with this message,

He forgives and forgets, then He sends us back out into the world to pass on His message of forgiveness! So come to the Lord with all your ‘stuff.’ He won’t turn you away. He won’t ask ‘Why weren’t you strong enough?’ He’s only going to say, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Now, get up and stick with me. We’ve got work to do.’

God’s way of encouraging me for the task at hand – both in my house and in my heart.