One of the first and most often questions I am asked after revealing that my mother is a compulsive hoarder and featured on the show "Hoarders" is:
Do you have trouble with hoarding?
I always say no. My house is not perfect (although I secretly desire for it to look like it jumped out of the pages of IKEA, it doesn't look that neat and pristine), but it is a long way from ever being considered cluttered. Like most people, we have several spots that collect things--the desk which seems to be the catch all for everything anyone doesn't know where to put, the top shelf of the bookcase where keys and pockets are emptied, and my dining room table where everyone does everything from eating to homework to crafting to any sort of other activity. But for the most part, my home is no different than yours. It is the home of six active children, and it looks every bit the part!
But several days ago, I had a moment of insight. I was struggling once again with the order of my living room when I realized something very deep and very important.
Because of how I grew up, because of the past hurts, because of present insecurities, I have an unusually strong desire to have a perfect home. Why? I have this warped belief that if my home is perfect, then no one will notice that I am a wreck on the inside.
It sounds kind of stupid, I know. How could a house represent my mind and heart's state? But growing up, I learned that part of the way to keep people from prying into our lives and finding out the family secret was to be "put together" on the outside. When you were clean, nicely dressed, well-prepared for school with a neat, organized notebook and homework done, you dodged the bullet. Teachers and classmates were very unaware that my home was the complete opposite of what I looked like I represented. I did a great job of hiding the secret.
But while I hid the secret of our mess, I struggled with the concept that who I was was not safe. The little girl who felt pain, anxiety, and deep fear of her home being discovered for what it was, also felt that who she really was could not be revealed either. Not only was my house in a shambles, my little heart was too. And although I longed to reveal the true state of my heart, it was not safe to do it.
Fast forward to today. The kids stayed up after we went to bed to watch a movie last night. The plastic containers from their McDonald's hot fudge sundaes are still sitting on the kitchen table, and there are various toys, papers, and clothing strewn across the living room floor. Puzzles were haphazardly tossed on the desk to keep our youngest daughter from getting them. It's a little bit like chaos. But it's manageable.
Today is one of those rare times that I did not freak out when I got up and saw this. This is how my heart looks. There are empty wrappers from happy times here and there. In the excitement of the moment, my heart didn't think far enough along to throw them away although they have no use now. There are moments of joy (toys), moments of revelation (papers), and coping devices (clothing) throughout my heart. If you had the power to see in there, you might say it's a bit of a mess right now.
But I have learned that no matter how clean my house is, my heart is always in process. Sometimes, I go through periods of great growth and change. In those moments, my heart is the messiest. But no matter how clean my house is, it will never arrange and tidy up the heart, my heart. And that's okay.
Some days, I stop for a moment and do a deep cleaning within my heart. I take the time to look really deep, going through the closets in my heart. And often I find treasures stored there, and sometimes I find junk. The treasures are the things that have made me a better person. The junk is the broken thought processes that keep me bound to the past and to negative thoughts. And I realize that just as I go through and clean my house, I can go through, sort, and toss the things that keep me weighed down to something less than what God created me to be. I can put good memories on shelves to display (sharing good memories with my children). I can choose to donate experiences that were helpful to me for learning something (encouraging others and sharing my story). And I can throw out the junk and trash (acceptance and forgiving myself and others).
Do I hoard? Yes. I hoard emotions--negative and positive. I have been holding them tightly, especially the bad ones recently. But just as a compulsive hoarder can be taught new patterns and thought processes, so can the little girl within me. And slowly, each moment, each day, I am making a difference in the hoard. It's not going to be done tomorrow. And although I would rather have it done all at once, I recognize and embrace the importance of the process and respect that it may take a lifetime to complete. But it's worth it, and although I may struggle at times, I will not give up until it's done.
And I know that when I'm all done and God calls me home, my heart will be in order.
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." --I Samuel 16:7 NIV
Father, thank you for not looking at me the way that I look at myself. Remind me today that I was created by you, that you love me no matter where I am in the process. Hold my heart gently as you work order, love, grace, peace, beauty, and confidence into me. And as you do these things within me, make me a blessing to others as I share the work you're doing in me. In Jesus' name, AMEN.