Several months ago, I decided to clean my son’s closet. He used to like to climb inside of it and make himself a cozy little hideout. However, over the course of time, it got full of so much junk that stuff would tumble out when you opened the door. He wasn’t able to play in his closet, nor was he able to use the toys in there, because he couldn’t find anything in the mess anymore. But he was living with it. Stepping over stuff, pushing even more stuff in his closet to “clean his room.” Little buddy started out helping me, but then he got overwhelmed with it all and just stopped and left. As I continued to work, instead of the mess getting better, it got so much worse. Occasionally I would look around and would feel overwhelmed with the monumental task in front of me, but I knew where I was going. About mid-way through, when his room and closet both looked like a massive storm had blown through, Little Buddy and Baby Girl came into the hallway and both just gasped in wide-eyed horror. Little Buddy screamed, “Mom! My room is so messy now! What are you doing?!”
“I’m cleaning, buddy.”
Little buddy laughed in disbelief and said, “I’m leaving! This is too much!”
But I kept at it, and eventually Little Buddy was able to come back and discover that he had a lovely closet to cozy up in. When he came back in, he was amazed and said, “Mom! It’s so clean now. I can go in my closet. I can do this; I can do that!” He was excited to find toys that he hadn’t played with in a while. And then we cuddled in his closet, because there was room now.
I liken this experience to the path I have tread with God these past couple of years, dealing with my mom having younger-onset dementia, my son having ADHD/HFA, and my struggle with depression, anorexia and self-injury. My life had been pretty messy for a while, and I was making due the best I could by using my addictions to avoid and deny my pain. You know, shoving things in the closet and telling myself everything was fine, when there was actually a huge overwhelming mess slowly growing out of control, hidden and just waiting to pour forth when the door was opened. Before long, it became impossible to shove anything more into that closet, and the mess came pouring out into the pristine room I had been keeping.
I started trying to clean up the mess myself, but it was so overwhelming it seemed impossible that I would ever make even a dent in it. I went to the hospital twice, and ended up in residential treatment for 6 weeks for my eating disorder and self-injury. And God met me in all of those places, and we started picking up together. But even when I got out of my residential treatment, I found that I was still overwhelmed by everything, and constantly wanted to just shove stuff back in the closet and forget about it. And that’s when God told me to just rest, and let Him take care of it. I had a really hard time with that. This was my mess; I needed to clean it up. My Evangelical background had always insisted that we as Christians should be “doing” things. If I had problems, well, it was my fault and I needed to pray harder or read my Bible more or be more active in church, which of course added to my burdens. But the thought of just resting, made me feel guilty. God kept gently prodding me to rest and trust Him though. And so I finally did, and when the guilt came, He led me to the story of Mary and Martha, where Mary rested at Jesus’ feet and just listened to Him. And I heard Him say to me, “Jennifer, my Jennifer, you are worried about so many things, but there’s only one thing that matters. So rest Beloved, and listen to Me.”
So as I rested and followed Him wherever He led, He continued to clean up my mess. But let me tell you, it got a whole lot messier before things started looking better. He had to pull everything out of my closet, and had to throw things away that I had long held onto, and that I wasn’t necessarily ready to get rid of.
This cleaning up is taking a really long time. He’s still digging some stuff out my closet, but for the most part, the disaster area has been cleaned up, and like my son, I stand amazed at what’s available to me now. He has cleared out so much space for me to explore my faith, and room has been made for me to have wonderful fellowship with an amazing body of believers. There’s also quiet space for me to just be with God.
I have found too that when things start getting messy again (because they do), instead of shoving them back in my closet to quickly rid myself of the garbage, I go to God instead, and hand them over. He knows exactly what to do with my mess, and I know I can trust Him because I am His Beloved broken girl and He loves me.