I wonder why we store things. Why do we squirrel away that first item before adding more and more to our rapidly growing stash of belongings? We know we can’t take any of it with us when we go to our eternal home, yet we still collect and save.
If you’re like me, over time, a lot of your stuff ends up completely out of sight, probably in the attic where no one enjoys going for a visit. We all seem to learn to open the attic door, tossing in the things that represent memories before returning to our life, leaving our past completely out of sight.
Then the day comes when we decide to clean out.
When this happened to me it was the summer of 2020, several months into a season of life when I suddenly found myself with too much time on my hands. I decided to clean out, decided to finally tackle the job I had been avoiding for a couple of decades.
Walking up those creaky steps took me into my past as I looked through box after box filled with stuff I had neglected for too long. There was a lot of dust. There were items that simply had not managed to fight the passing of all those years, giving in to the disintegration that comes with both time and heat. And there was far too much that I didn’t remember, things that suddenly held no value at all to me even though there must have been a reason I decided to save them in the first place.
By the end of that summer, I had spent day after day working on my project. I had carried every single box downstairs to the comfort of my home, out of the unrelenting heat of my attic. I had spent hours looking at each item, taking pictures to share with my family before stuffing the obvious trash in large plastic bags. I then made piles of what to sell, what to donate, and what to keep. I ended up keeping very little.
My attic has exactly one item in it now: a wooden rocking horse my daughter enjoyed way back when we counted her age in months instead of years.
I found a few treasures nestled in among all that trash, ones that I’m grateful for. I’m glad I took the time to look at everything. I had to look at it all. It was the only way to determine what still held value for me. I had to touch every item to determine whether it was trash or treasure.
I also have to hold every thought captive. If I’m filling my heart and mind with the goodness of God, it won’t take long for me to recognize which thoughts need to be gotten rid of it.
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5
I was surprised when I discovered how little most of what I had stored in the attic meant to me, all the things that I once thought were important enough to keep.
You see, I thought I was storing memories. I thought I was saving items that others would want to see one day. And, to some extent, that was true. But, in a much larger sense, most of what I had kept had lost its meaning to me, never actually having meaning that anyone else would enjoy.
Much like my attic, which was designed for saving things, our feelings get stored in our hearts and in our minds. After all, both are perfect receptacles for storing memories. In spite of our best intentions, there are times when we hang onto things a bit too long. We don’t set out to do this, but we often end up storing memories of painful times, hurtful words that were cast our way, and moments of regret we need to forgive ourselves for.
Unlike my attic, which required me to brave the rickety stairs to reach what was stored inside, my heart and mind are always instantly available to me. All I have to do is entertain a thought that comes my way, letting it take me on a journey back to my past. Some of these memories are painful, ones that I don’t need to rehearse, ones that I struggle to let go of.
My attic is clean today. There aren’t piles of dusty boxes stacked everywhere. If I chose to go up there right now, I would be able to move around freely. But there’s also the temptation to start storing things again, to fill my attic, piece by piece, like I did over the past three and a half decades.
I have no intention of creating another mess, but I never intended to create a mess in the first place. It started out as a box of baby clothes that I thought I might use again or that my children might one day want. Then I added toys that I just didn’t have the heart to let go of, toys that reminded me of times when my children were younger. I kept greeting cards. I kept mementos. In the end, I simply kept too much. After all, my attic was designed to hold a limited amount of storage.
My heart is designed that way too.
God has instructed me to fill my heart with particular things and, when I do this, I find that it’s full, too full to focus on everything that causes the messiness of pain and regret to build up inside of me, feelings that I simply don’t want to hold onto.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Quite often, I make a deposit into my heart and mind, the kind that festers and tries to push everything that is good out, the kind that selfishly wants to occupy every part of me. Dwelling on past hurts, dwelling on my own selfish desires, it all takes up a lot of space. And my heart, along with my mind, only has so much room for storage.
When God told me what to dwell on, He knew how much space I would need to contain His goodness, so He gave me a heart big enough to hold everything He wants for me. He gave me a heart that can contain His love, so much so that it oozes out of me and onto others.
I want a heart full of love. I want a heart full of peace. I want a heart so full of God’s goodness that I give it away to everyone I meet.
I’m the only one who can prevent all of that from happening. If I allow my heart to fill up with anything other than what God has offered to me, I’m pushing His goodness out, little by little. The more bitterness I allow in, the more of His goodness I no longer feel.
It’s a natural reaction to feel pain when someone hurts you. It’s normal to rehearse regret. It’s my fleshly nature to do these things.
But God has provided the Holy Spirit to help me move past the desires of my flesh. He’s given me His Word to show me examples of what I should allow inside my heart. He has shared his Son with me, Jesus, who is the ultimate example of selfless love.
I’m glad I have a clean attic these days. For years I was aware of the need to clean it out, but it wasn’t until I actually tackled the job that I understood the freedom that can come from letting go of what I never should have held onto in the first place.
Much like David did when he cried out to the Lord in Psalm 51, I want a clean heart. I got one the day I asked Jesus to save me, and I have the opportunity to keep it clean if I allow God’s Word to scrub away everything bad that tries to turn my heart away from Him.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, teaches middle and high school English. A regular contributing writer for Calla Press, she also writes for The Real Deal of Parenting and Her View From Home. Sandy’s idea of a perfect day is one spent creating memories with her grandchildren. This usually includes coloring and reading a lot of books. You can read more of her work on her blog at sandybrannan.com. Sandy is also active on social media at facebook.com/sandybrannanauthor and instagram.com/sandybrannanauthor. You can follow her on Amazon at amazon.com/author/sandybrannan.
We thank you, Sandy, for your contribution to this publication of Titus-two.com and sharing your wisdom, insight and love for women through the gift of words of encouragement.
You are loved to Heaven and Back, Sandy ~~
LindaRJohnson, TitusTwo Visionary