Cleaning out the attic.

First published December 10, 2010. Still true today. 

I spent some time in the attic last weekend. It was time. Stuff accumulates.

Empty boxes saved in case something breaks. A broken string trimmer saved in case someday I know how to fix it. Mugs saved because someone gave them to me . . . from events that are over . . . at institutions that no longer exist.

I don’t like cleaning, in part, because it reminds me of my failures. Forgotten commitments. Wishful promises. Neglected relationships.

The problem, of course, with cramming all that stuff in the attic is that the ceiling of the garage is sagging a bit. The ladder that hung straight when we moved in 14 years ago is now a bit crooked. My unwillingness to deal with stuff is causing actual damage.

David talked about cleaning in Psalm 51. He says,

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

We often read things like that, talk about God crushing bones, and we think, “See, he’s horrible.”

But then I think about cramming stuff in the attic and I realize that often, it is my unwillingness to deal with what is wrong that results in the crushing. There is a dull ache from ignored conflict. Sin, for that is what it often is, hurts. Until I address the reasons I stuff things out of sight, the ceiling will continue to sag. The bones will be crushed.

The point of cleaning is not the pain, it’s the result. Cleaning, cleansing, results in freedom, in restoration, in space and simplicity.

I must confess that every time I deep clean, whether the attic or my heart, there is emotional pain. Facing failing God and others hurts.

But my bones always feel better.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.