Well, it’s that time of year again. That time when the hope-filled signs of Spring hint all around us; that time when we look outside and wonder what will pop through the ground first. It’s that time when we look around the rooms inside and consider the task of clearing out the accumulation of debris that has collected over the autumn and winter seasons. No? Cleaning deep into corners and under carpets? Wiping and washing away grime on screens and window panes? Culling away single socks and mitts and transparently worn sweaters and leaky boots?
No? No dusting out, shaking out, washing out, cleaning out?
Ah, cleaning house.
There are so many times when I choose to do just the cursory cleaning: a light dusting of the surfaces I see, a light sweep of the floors and quick wipe out of the sink. I procrastinate doing the larger task. Yet oddly, I always seem to look forward, even yearn to get the deep clean done. But whether it’s the thorough cleaning of one room each week, or the larger full-scale Spring cleaning, that first step sometimes seems to be cloaked as a threatening dare rather than a warm and encouraging invitation.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
I don’t know about you, but all too often I adjourn early or postpone the Divine Deep Clean altogether rather than stick around and help clean out the gunk – even though I know I really want what’s on the other side. And then I wonder why I have to tip my ear closer to hear what He might be saying to me. Oh yes Lord, I want to hear you, but your voice is a bit muffled! Can you speak up? And in today’s day and age, I think we all want more than ever to more clearly hear. And while I definitely believe that God is speaking to us all the time whatever the condition or circumstance, I think that sometimes we occasionally, okay more often than not, need to work with Him to clear away some debris to hear Him better. Sometimes we need to clean house. And God in His goodness not only does the illuminating of those dastardly dust bunnies, but also stands ready with two buckets, mops, sponges and brushes.
But oh that step. We want it, but we don’t.
Part of the problem, I think is that we’ve been conditioned by this world to not take the step at all, in fact to do the exact opposite; taught that accumulating to insulate and protect ourselves is the best way to live the ideal of keeping unscathed, repeatedly warned to make that wall thicker if you have been scathed, beaten, battered, bruised and hurt. To refuse to do so, gasp!, to put yourself out there when you have been clobbered is just a masochistic invitation to a whole lot more hurt. Nah, it’s better to keep that brave face, keep it together, hold in tight, build that fortress wall thicker and harden that shell. Suck it up, cover up and survive. But surviving is not living, and it seems to me that it’s actually this very attitude itself that is the cruel and sadistic invitation to the whole lot of hurt, because rather than helping us to grow, it stunts us, shrouds us, suffocates and isolates us. It seems to me that this kind of outlook needs to be shaken from our hearts and minds like we shake dust from curtains, or our hands dry after washing them.
I submit that defying this attitude is the very way out of what precipitated it; reaching out to others even when we’re hurt and hurting will not draw life out of us, but with draw life back to us. When we abandon the wall-building, when we forget appearances, about saving face from the sneers of others and instead seek to share all that we have – or have left – with others; when we reach out in our own nakedness and hurt to another to tenderly clothe them in the ways we would hope could have been or could be done for ourselves; when we stand shoulder to shoulder, protect the lost, the aching, the shunned, the outcast – we are caught up in the mystery of how the unseen fills. We find that while we fill others, we ourselves are filled up to overfilling with what had previously been snatched from us in hurtful ways. And more. And as we are, our spirits agree ‘yes!’, and the more we do it, the more we want to. The filling and refilling increases and expands in breadth and width and impact, and lifts us on its current, moving us far enough away that whatever cluttered our hearts truly no longer has any hold on us.
Wishful thinking? I don’t think so. What’s more, I contend that each of us has that deeply rooted desire, that light to give of ourselves within us – even when we’ve been tragically hurt, even in the midst of it – and it serves to not only carry us out of it, but build us back up in the process. And if you can see evidence of it in others, then you can be sure that it flickers in you too, without exception. And I see the evidence. Everywhere.
Someone very near and very dear to me was very cruelly and cuttingly hurt, their tender and generously loving heart devastatingly betrayed. I mean grievously. Yet, while, yes the memory still lingers and rears an ugly head once in awhile (and I say ugly, because it’s such a contrast to the renewed beauty and brightness I have come to witness), while the struggle out of the shambles has been arduous, that deep desire to give to others, to cheer others, to reach out to others has and continues to persist. It was there even when the pain began, through its apex, and remains even now as heads lift to walk out upright. That deeply rooted desire defiantly endures and prevails, and it has brought and continues to bring freedom – freedom from the jumble into growing peace, and from that peace into living and giving outward – even as it came from a place that began as inward suffering. Joy and hope have not been snuffed out; nope, they have persisted, been recalled to memory and been revived. And the how is as creative as the Creator Himself.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Sometimes I think the Spirit helps and heals and restores joy and hope by redirecting energies to our uniquely given humble passions. In this beloved’s case it happens to be fixing beaten-up or useless cabinets that had been discarded: in devoting time and energy and focus on each one at a time, painstakingly working step by step on their renewal, and then offering them up for sale. But the real joy has not been in the transaction of the sale. No question that this too is steeped in gratitude, but honestly it really is just a bonus. The very obvious, real and lasting joy has been found in the taking something that others had discarded as worthless, seeing its potential, investing in time and resources of energy and devotion in fixing it up, refreshing it, transforming it and garnering delight in returning it to its purpose. … 🙂 …
Cleaning house with humble instruments. Cabinets. Moving within the passions that He planted; moving in and re-softening the heart, progressing from room to room to clear out clutter, to untether from circumstances that have littered each space, to shake out, to wash away grime, to reorient and rehabilitate and repair and renew spirit and soul and mind. Re-firing breaker switches of hope wired to the deeply rooted desire that connects us to Himself. Flooding the rooms of the heart with the light of His passionate delight and joy in His child and His yearning and focused desire for our inmost fulfillment. Soaking in His joy that reanimates our affections and yens. Filling the lungs of the spirit with the vigorous fresh air of His Spirit, infusing and brightening our own to do, to go out and share, offering oneself again, and again. And again.
So good Lord! Whoo! You’re just so good!
No matter our circumstance, do Joy and Hope always remain? Look carefully beloved – they do. They must, for the One Who cannot be moved created them. The One Who is both created you and soaked you in His DNA in which Joy and Hope are strands – strands that can never be broken or washed away from Himself. They are there, whether buried under the clutter, or evident when they alone remain in the room; they are there when you see them in the hearts around you, and so then in yours too my friend.
Look for them. Seize them, shake them free and live them out loud!
“.. do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
Soil and Seed