Not long ago I had the joy of serving in Aransas Pass with the “Mud Dawgs”, a TBM Disaster relief unit out of Oak Ridge Baptist Church. I arrived on the scene after the work had already begun and was quickly pointed to a room that had not been started on yet. It was a small house that you could tell had been home to a sweet family for many years. Pictures of the different generations lined the walls and treasured items gathered throughout the years filled the rooms.
The floodwaters had moved in quickly and unexpectedly. Precious treasures now scattered and piled high to avoid the rising water. As I followed my Blue Cap leader into the small room which I had been assigned, we both stopped and knew a plan must be made. It was a small space and the four damaged walls would be easy to cut in order to remove the sheetrock but the biggest problem was all of the stuff we would have to work around and through to get to the walls. We made a plan and I got to work.
Complete the process in small sections. Measure, cut, tear out, sweep, vacuum, remove nails, and sanitizing spray. Clean as you go was the instruction I was given and I laughed, as my nature is make-as-much-of-a-mess-as-you-can, then go back and clean later. It was then the Holy Spirit spoke. Oh how I was like this room when I first came to CBGH!! I didn’t want to deal with the clutter in front of my walls, I just wanted to get busy cutting out whatever was damaged so I could get out of there and on with my life.
Dealing with the clutter would take too long and be too difficult. I tried to find an easier way. After all, the problem was the damaged walls of my heart not the clutter of issues in front of it, right? I spent many nights at CBGH crying out to God to just remove and fix what was broken in me. I was tired of being so damaged inside, continuing to return to same places I had been. The same mistakes and patterns being repeated. I knew better. I knew the scriptures. I knew the steps. I was all too familiar with the process. Why wasn’t it working? Why wasn’t I fixed? Just like on this disaster relief trip, at CBGH I had a wise blue cap leader who God used to show me to deal with the clutter first. It is true we have to get to the root of all sin but we cannot forget that our sin has caused clutter to build up in front of it. Some of that clutter is just the natural consequence of sin. Some of it we put there to hide the shame and guilt we carry over that damaged wall in our lives. Some of the clutter is just pure denial and trying to make our rooms look pretty and distract from the mess that we are inside. I realized that day, over two years after my journey at CBGH had begun, that the reason things were different this time was because I had learned to deal with the clutter.
I embraced the process and didn’t try to short cut on the work. My walls of pride that were so severely damaged were hidden behind years of hurt, resentments, loneliness, anger, insecurity, and no self- worth. I had to face each of those, surrender them to God, and allow His healing to clean up the clutter. I knew early on that alcoholism had deep roots and that one of them was pride but it wasn’t enough to know and admit this. The way to tear it out by the root was to address the way that it was bearing fruit in my life. I had troubled relationships with others, an unsubmissive heart, and an all-about-me-attitude. I learned how to communicate my needs and feelings in a gentler way. I learned how to not just comply but what true submission is. I learned that the gospel is God first, others second. We are known to be His disciples by our love for one another. It’s really not all about me. So slowly the clutter was removed and then the damaged walls taken out.
As my life has been being rebuilt over the past couple of years, I can see how this process was so vital. By learning to deal with the clutter, the fruit of the real issue of my pride, I can see when I am beginning to let these attitudes back in my life. I can see when the enemy attacks and I am not as blindsided or when God is testing me. This is where the clean as you go method comes in handy. Now I take care of things as they come up in my daily life. I apologize to others when I have wronged them or used words to hurt them. I am quick to confess and run to the Father for forgiveness. If I let the mess get out of control, it will become overwhelming and much more difficult to clean up because for me it will probably mean a terrible relapse to old behavior. If I run to the cross to be cleaned up, my house stays in order and my peace with God and others is maintained. I also realized that if I keep things clean as I go, I don’t want them to get dirty because of the hard work I have put into getting it cleaned up. It means I don’t let things in my life that I know will eventually create a mess. I set boundaries.
True freedom doesn’t mean never having a struggle. True freedom is not about instant gratification. True freedom is not about being in control. It has a price. It has a process. True freedom begins with submission. I have learned to experience true freedom and peace even in the process because I fully submit and trust my Creator and Redeemer. He is in complete control of the process and there is no greater joy that I have ever known!
By His grace, for His glory!