[Obligatory Disclaimer: Yes, I know I haven’t written in months. Yes, I know this post isn’t particularly funny. But guess what. It’s my blog.]
My girlfriends and I got together last night for a Golden Girls party. I know. Don’t even start. I wanted to be Rose, but somehow I got nominated to be Blanche. That’s right, the hussy. If I had really thought about it, I should have been Sophia, the Italian smart aleck. That has nothing to do with this post, but it was amusing. We watched a few episodes, admiring the circa-1987 fashion stylings of four retired ladies in Florida.
Maybe it was the inspiration of Dorothy’s horrifying muumuus, but at some point we decided to switch to Hoarders, Season 1. We all had reasons for wanting to clear out the mess in our houses – babies, moving, divorce, etc. So we were ready for some serious cleaning motivation. We talked about how watching Hoarders makes us simultaneously feel better about our less-than-tidy homes and motivated to remove everything unnecessary in our living spaces.
We watched two episodes, making all the obligatory remarks when someone would pull some rotting foodstuffs out from under a heap of clothing or painstakingly sort through a pile of what was obviously (to everyone except the “hoarder”) garbage. We talked about the psychological and spiritual issues these people must have to live in such filth. One of the interesting things about this disorder (and most disorders like it) is that you can’t go in, remove the person, and clean it up for them because the person isn’t changed. You could leave it spotless, with a place for everything and everything in its place. But if the hoarder doesn’t participate in the process and have a fundamental change in how he or she lives, the house will be back to a disaster within a matter of months. One woman had begun losing people in her life, starting with her dad, and started filling her house to replace the people she’d lost. Eventually the filth was too much for her husband and four kids, and they all left. We watched her daughter cry because of the guilt she felt for leaving her mom and the shame at having lived in such a mess. Such sad stories of broken people.
We talked about the graciousness of the people who were brought in to help. They didn’t stand back and direct their minions or the hoarder’s family members about what to do next. They got right into the filth with shovels, face masks, and gloves, making the occasional graceful exit for fresh air when the smell overtook them. Then right back to it. They were gentle with their correction. When a woman wanted to keep chicken broth that had expired a year or two earlier, the expert said, “I’m going to suggest that you have a blind spot here.” I would have said, “Dude. Throw it out. It’s disgusting.” When a man wanted to keep a stash of 2-liter bottle caps (“They have codes on them that I can use to get more…stuff…”), the expert said, “Okay, is that something that supports your new goals or keeps you stuck in the mess?”
It hit me this morning – all that “stuff” and mess is a vivid picture of sin. If the requirement for salvation is perfection, nobody measures up. You might have a pristine house, but if you are going to live in it, you’re going to cause a mess. The instant you put some food on a plate, you’ve popped the perfection bubble. Someone’s going to have to clean it up.
I take inventory of the idols of my heart, sorting through the piles of what is clearly garbage. “But God, I want to keep that. It has sentimental value.” So does Baby Boy’s first dirty diaper. That doesn’t mean I should keep it. “But God, there’s something I can salvage out of that.” Like the woman who just had to pull a few seeds out of the rotting pumpkin on her living room floor before it was thrown out. “But God, I can fix that and make it useful.” Like the toy car with a missing wheel, the broken chair, and a hundred other things piled up in the yard. It’s…all…just…garbage.
Like the experts, God gently reminds me that I might just have a blind spot regarding an area. That that thing I’m clinging to doesn’t support what He’s called me to do. He gets down in the filth and mess and shows me where I need to change.
I look at someone who clearly has a LOT of unresolved sin. It makes me feel better about my own sin. “Whew, at least I’m not that bad.” I’m sometimes motivated to take inventory of my own sin, but usually it’s just to make sure I don’t end up looking like whoever I’m comparing myself to. Not because it’s disgusting and affects all my relationships.
And the parallel continues in Jesus’ gift of salvation. He comes in to clear out the garbage, taking it on himself. He takes the filthy stinking mess and, in exchange, gives me a new, clean, peaceful dwelling place. Hopefully, I receive and appreciate the gift. Hopefully, as new (and old) “garbage” threatens to reside in my new, clean home, I recognize it for what it is and don’t let it in. But inevitably, I’ll have a “blind spot” or I’ll think I can salvage something useful out of a pile of garbage and let it creep back in. And Jesus will come in again, gently reminding me of where I came from and what he has given me in exchange for the pile of garbage I presented to him.
I can become legalistic and idolatrous, creating systems for organizing my sin and/or making sure it doesn’t get into my house in the first place. But at some point, I will let down my guard or my carefully devised “system” will fail me. Sin will enter in. If there’s not a change in my heart, if I’m not continually grieved for the effects sin has on my relationships with everyone around me and, more importantly, the price Jesus paid for it, I will let it stay. I will start to like it. I will eventually be so attached to it that the Expert has to come in and show me what it really is. He will remind me of who I really am. I am no longer a Sin Hoarder. I am a Daughter of the Living God, clothed in his spotless righteousness.