This week we used one of our big trash pickups. We only get a couple of these per year, so it is always wise to make the most of them. We got rid of a couple old pieces of furniture, our worn-out mattress (Thanks Randy Lake for the new one!), and all those various odds and ends that just sort of collect over time. They pile up on the side of our house in all of the out of sight corners. Things that we hold on to because we might, one day, need them. And in the meantime, they deteriorate rapidly. They rust and collect spiders. They get covered with a film of dust and disuse. And the clutter does more than just take up useful space. It becomes an eyesore.
So, to drag it all out to the curb on our alley and watch it get loaded up on the truck was like a huge burden lifted. A burden that I didn’t even realize I was carrying. The familiar clutter that I was keeping out of focus had, of course, been there all along. And ignoring it had become a form of denial. I would just pretend I didn't see it. But my shoulders would still slump under its weight, even if I did it unawares.
There’s a metaphor in there that feels right in line with the spirit and intention of Lent. The season begins with confession. Our church goes through a litany of penitence which is a prayerful self-examination. Not only for things we’ve done wrong, but things we’ve left undone. Ways we have avoided our responsibilities or neglected the needs of others. And for those things, together, we ask God for forgiveness. We repent.
Which is another one of those words that needs to be reclaimed. It has become distorted into a posture of guilt and shame. But confession and repentance, both, in my experience, result in freedom. They involve taking out all that stuff that is cluttering up our hearts and clearing out the space. It is reducing the interior clutter. And the texture of confession always results in a lightness of heart.
It is the freedom that comes with forgiveness. And often we’re too proud or too lazy to make the effort of acknowledging the junk that we need to get rid of. We have this standing invitation to cast our burdens on God, but instead we hold on to that stuff for a rainy day. Or we ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. But it is, and it has an effect on our hearts whether we acknowledge it or not.
Confession is about forgiveness. Accepting it for ourselves, and then offering it to others. It is about naming the junk in our lives and making space in our hearts for more of the good. And sometimes it isn’t anything we’ve done or not done. Often it is what has been done to us. A wrong that we’ve suffered or an injustice. That stuff collects too. We hoard unforgiveness. We pack it away like files in boxes that stack up over time and pretty soon we’ve filled the garage.
Confession isn’t just about letting go of our junk. It is about letting go of other people’s as well. And although it might feel costly at first, the sense of relief is overwhelming.
So what is cluttering up your heart? What is occupying too much space? What have you outgrown? In this season, be reminded that we have a God that desires our hearts to be free. We have a standing offer for an ongoing big pickup if we’ll just take advantage of it. It’s worth it. Kick that stuff to the curb.