Those life-changing moments that mark a day we will never forget sometimes happen at the most mundane, ordinary times. It can be during the daily routines we have repeated for years and years that God suddenly stops us dead in our tracks to illuminate truth that has been there all along. I had one of these moments not so long ago.
As I sat up, fresh from slumber on a Saturday morning – I looked over at my closet from my perch on the bed. As it were, I was off work on this day, and my plan was to do the mountain of household laundry it seems I can NEVER escape. My closet, which looked like a small grenade had gone off in it, consisted of two full piles of dirty clothes baskets.
I immediately thought to myself, “When did I get this many clothes?!” It was an appropriate thought, because looking at the piles of laundry also caused me to look up at the rows of clean clothing that was neatly hung above it. So many clean clothes. So many dirty clothes.
So many clothes!
My immediate thought: I don’t need all these! So, the purge began. I grabbed a trash bag, and after starting my first load of laundry, I began going through the clean clothes, putting what I no longer wore in trash bags to give to the Goodwill.
When I looked down and saw two trash bags full of clothes, I felt good thinking someone might be able to use these clothes – and happy to have freed up some space in the closet. But what surprised me was that my closet was still very full!
Now wait just a minute! Two huge laundry baskets gone to be washed, two full trash bags of clothes to be given away at the Goodwill, and the closet still looks full?! What gives?
So, throughout the day, I kept at it, determined to clean that closet down to the items I absolutely needed. As the day progressed, the trash bags continued to pile up. Honestly, I’m ashamed to tell you how many I ended up taking to the Goodwill, but suffice it to say, I’d been collecting clothing and clutter for far too long.
The task proved much more difficult than I would have thought, but by the end of the process, I could barely recognize my closet! What had once been a closet stuffed with clothes was now quite bare, but beautifully neat. I hadn’t anticipated the benefit of the extra room.
Well, I was very thankful for that morning as time went on, because later in that season of my life, God began forcing me to clean out some items that had been hanging in the closet of my life, my relationships, affiliations, and my thinking. And just as before, the process would not be easy.
I don’t know about you, but God has a very special way of getting my attention. And I’m continually reminded, even though painfully at times, that He wants something out of me. We were created to bring God glory (Is. 43:7)! And our God is relentless. He’s too invested in His plan and He loves us too much to allow us to comfortably forfeit our destiny and His purpose. The beautiful thing about it? Even though painful at times, He is working all things together for the good of us who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, the tough stuff is good for us!
With this in mind, I began to confront several of the issues that were overtaking my life, just as the dirty clothes had been overtaking my closet. And in doing so, God showed me something important.
I had too much junk!
And God wasn’t content to allow the junk to stay. He wanted in, and that meant I needed to make room!
I have found that there are a great many things that we are willing to give up. Usually, they tend to be things that don’t cost us anything, or at least don’t cost us much. But the very thing we are often very unwilling to give up is ourselves. Our identities. Our legacy. Our history. Our past.
This thought brings Abraham to mind. I have always been intrigued by his story. He is rightly called the Father of Faith, because he was willing to give it all up when God demanded it. Consider that he was called to leave his entire family and go to another country. I can imagine, Abraham might have asked, “Uh, okay. Which country, Lord?” “You’ll know it when I tell you you’re there”, was God’s basic answer.
Whoever, and whatever Abraham was when he left his father and his family was now history. God required him to leave himself behind. God required a new life, and new faith, a new understanding, and even a new name! God required his Identity. His “Abraham-ness” was to be poured out on the altar as a pleasing sacrifice. And that was at the very beginning of their walk together.
This is a picture of what true faith will cost us. The scriptures tell us that ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away, behold all things are new” (2 Cor 5:17). Our life in Christ should be a willful surrender of our old mindsets, old ways of thinking, and old patterns of behavior. It is the act of bringing all of it under the authority of Christ, and allowing Him to shape us into His image. It is, as Abraham did, laying your entire identity down, and allowing God to reshape a new one in you.
If you’re anything like me, that thought is overwhelming. And the enormity of laying down your “you-ness”, and all that has made you who you are is more than most are willing to do. Without your identity, background, accomplishments, legacy – what do you really have?
But these fears are unfounded, and they are the enemy’s work to keep us out of purpose. For it is in the midst of all that you are that God wants to reshape you. He wants to use it all to weave a beautiful new tapestry, but you must first surrender it.
Consider the woman at the well. Her jaded past with men was the very occasion and reason Christ used to offer her Living Water. Suddenly, a woman who was very likely a community outcast suddenly began running through the streets crying “Come see a man, who told me all I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?!”
Consider the Apostle Paul whose litany of accomplishments and great heritage as a “Hebrew of Hebrews”, and a great scholar of the law, was all willingly surrendered after an experience with Christ, and counted as garbage and worthless (Phil 3:1-10). But in this sweet surrender, Christ calls on Paul’s very past, his zeal, his knowledge of the law, and even his heritage and persecution of the church to make him possibly the greatest apostle of all time!
So, the reality is this: That junk we are carrying, the experiences that changed us, the unwritten rules and expectations that have shaped our understanding – they must be all surrendered at the feet of Christ. Because when we lay them down, we make room for God’s truth.
All of the junk of your past and present is taking up the space he needs to do his work in you. You’ll either surrender it, and let him make you into a new creation with it, or you will hold onto it tighter and continue to crowd out the work He desires to do in you. It will be one or the other, but it won’t be both.
Your childhood trauma can longer shape the entire way you see the world. If you allow it to, there will be no room for Christ’s truth about who you are in Him to saturate your heart and change your life.
Your relational letdowns cannot become the lens through which you view every new relationship opportunity. If they do, you will have no room for the truth of Christ’s promise for “Life, and Life more abundantly” to permeate you and give you a new future.
The expectations that were placed on you, and “this is the the way we do it” ideas cannot be the “box” that you force everyone else to interact with you inside of. Otherwise, you cannot experience the all knowing, all wise God who boasts to be more than able to do “exceedingly, abundantly above all that you can ask or think”.
God’s truth wants in, and that means you must make room. Your junk has got to go!