You are precious and honored in my sight, and… I love you. (Isaiah 43:4, NIV)
All it takes is an instant for me to forget my royal identity and start labeling myself with lies. Like the time I froze up over a spatula while hosting a baby shower. I’d opened the doors of our tiny rental house, keenly aware of the four-foot scrape on the linoleum floor, and other dings and dents left by previous tenants. The pressure of playing hostess to a bunch of southern belles who knew how to act at a baby shower (way better than I did) was stifling. That’s when it happened. Someone asked for my cake server. Knowing I didn’t have one in the wedding-gift stash, I rummaged around in the junk drawer for an alternative. When I finally produced a semi-melted, black plastic spatula, I saw what looked like disdain as the other ladies scrutinized it.
And that’s when I froze. My spirit crushed as I accessed my most painful memories of being bullied in junior high school. In an instant, I was that sixth grade girl, fearful, weak, a nobody. I harshly labeled myself:
“You don’t fit in.”
“You can’t do anything right.”
How God Sees Me
Elijah knew his unique identity in the Lord. But he also knew labels. A prophet of God, he had a special message. One filled with heart for God’s people. And yet, King Ahab, with all his royal clout, labeled Elijah in 1 Kings 18:17: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Ouch.
I love how Elijah dealt with this, and the general dejection of running for his life:
He took care of business – divine business. Read the story of Elijah praying for fire down from heaven in 1 Kings 18:21-39. It’s awesome.
He got alone and took his heart to God. “I have had enough, LORD.” (1 Kings 19:4)
And what did God do? He provided for his needs.He fed him bread for the journey ahead.
So what can I learn from Elijah, who was human, just like I am? (James 5:17)
When I feel unloved, I take my hurts to God. He holds my hand and collects my tears in a bottle. (Isaiah 42:6, Psalm 56:8)
When I feel like nobody, I remember that I am precious and honored in God’s sight. (Isaiah 43:4)
When I feel like I don’t fit in, I remember He has not rejected me. (Isaiah 41:9, 10)
Friend, take your hurts to God. He’ll give you bread, sustenance, for the journey.
One Small Step
What lies are your inner bullies telling you? Are you listening to and affirming them?
Prayerfully write down who you are in God. Post on your bathroom mirror, your phone background, and above your kitchen sink. Let these beautiful truths sink in as they become louder than the mind clutter bullies.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours (Isaiah 61:7, NIV).
Before I could change my mind, I scooped up my bathroom scale and tossed it into the box labeled, “Goodwill.”
I took a picture of the giveaway box containing a perfectly good bathroom scale (one I’d used daily, sometimes multiple times) and sent it to my friend, Melissa. “Goodbye, bossy box!” I captioned it.
Though technically not house clutter, it did represent a whole heap of heart clutter.
After sharing with Melissa my struggles about shame over my weight, I realized I had become a slave to a digital number. My mood each day depended on whether that number went up or down.
“Has it been working for you so far?” Melissa had asked. I had to agree with her; it hadn’t helped me lose weight or have a healthy relationship with food. It only added to the weight of shame I’d been carrying. I plunked the box into the garage and decided to focus on other markers of health success.
Since my decluttering session, my mood has been a lot lighter. I have the freedom to engage in self care (exercising to feel better and sleep better, rather than punishing myself for a number on a box). I base my success on how good and healthy I feel rather than a fluctuating number.
Shame only serves to weigh us down rather than to help us grow and serve the purpose God created us for (Ephesians 2:10). Before we can ever deal with the exterior problem, we have to throw off the heart clutter holding us back.
Often, items cluttering up our home are tangible evidence we’re carrying around too much shame in our hearts. To the naked eye, it looks like a bathroom scale or 50 bottles of lotion you’ll never use or 6 old phones sitting in your top drawer. But down under the useless stuff, there’s shame involved. Your clutter might represent bad financial decisions, abusive relationships, or other poor choices—any number of things we chronically kick ourselves over.
Once we recognize an item triggers shame in our hearts, it’s easier to toss it. We can’t change whatever caused the shame in the past, but we can make positive, nurturing changes that help us live in a joyful present. Without the weight of shame, we are free to go out and do what we were made to do in the world.
One Small Win
Think of one item in your house you keep, not because it serves you well, but out of shame. Imagine the feeling of lifting the weight of shame off of you when you get it out of your house. Take a deep breath, and do it!
Lyneta Smith and her husband Doug live near Nashville, TN. When not entertaining their adult children or caring for a mischievous Boston terrier and opinionated tortoiseshell cat, they’re typing away on their computers or doing teaching/mentoring ministries in their church. You can read more from Lyneta at LynetaSmith.com.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
I’m ready to throw out all of my jeans. Nothing reminds me of the extra weight I’m wearing than a pair of jeans. My skinny jeans really are a paradox. As I tug, yank and wiggle out of them after a long day, I feel trapped in guilt. Suffocating guilt traps them like a denim straight jacket onto my hips. Why haven’t I lost weight yet? How could I have let myself get this heavy? Why do I keep insisting on cramming my body into these jeans? I can’t shed these jeans fast enough. Unfortunately, those extra pounds don’t make fast an option.
Eventually I peel off the jeans and throw them in a heap on my closet floor. They lay there, mocking me. I might have removed the jeans from my body, yet I still don’t feel free of them. There’s another layer squeezing me, my heart.
The guilt. Oh the guilt.
That’s much more difficult to remove. And today it’s almost impossible to shimmy out of.
I quickly grab a pair of leggings and pull them on, their softness and comfort enveloping me. Oh how I long for the same feeling in my heart.
Deep in my heart, I hear a whisper. A reminder. My worth is not found in how my jeans fit, the number on the tag in my jeans, or the number on the scale.
My worth is in Jesus.
For me to wear the peace of that statement, I need to not only shed the too-tight clothes, but the guilt, the shame and the disappointment that comes with them.
Hebrews 4:16 reminds me that because of Jesus, I can approach the throne of God’s grace with confidence. Not with guilt, shame and fear. With confidence. No matter the size of my jeans. The number of the scale. God wants me to come to Him with confidence, but what waits for me there is so much better than confidence! He’s waiting for me, for you, with grace and mercy. And as I find His grace and mercy, I can begin to extend it to myself.
And today, that looks like adding that pair of jeans to the bag of items I’m going to donate later this week. And since I’m already in my closet, I might as well go through some other clothes that don’t fit me. They’re just clutter anyway.
As I let go of clothing that doesn’t fit me, I also let go of the guilt that God never designed to fit my heart.
One Small Win
What’s one item that you can give away or throw away today that will not only release you from physical clutter but from the emotional clutter of guilt? Once you think of it, go do it! Bag it up and put it in your trunk for the next time you’re near a donation spot or throw it away if it’s trash. As you get rid of it, say goodbye to the guilt about it too!
Melissa Mulvaney is a wife, triple-boy blessed mama, writer, certified life coach and lover of her loud and joyful life. She’s known for her cowbells skills, only writes with pink pens, has the loudest laugh in the room, uses 10 exclamation points instead of a period, and cheers her people on literally and figuratively. If cheering people on was a sport, Melissa would win the gold! You can connect with her at MelissaMulvaney.com.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26, NIV)
“Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” (Luke 12:15, MSG)
It was the closet that I’d been avoiding. It was organized, but there were simply too many things I didn’t need and wasn’t wearing. I stared at the same blouses that had hung there unworn since the last purge. I’d made progress, but not with these items.
Why couldn’t I part with these things?! Yes, they were beautiful. Some had been expensive. All were in perfect condition. But they didn’t fit me anymore. Physically they fit, but not in other important ways. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but every time I had an occasion to wear them, I decided not to.
Why? In a word – fear.
If I get rid of this, will I have what I need?
But it felt deeper than just that.
As so often happens, I decided to pray. As a last resort. Sigh.
I asked God to show me what was going on.
As I pulled the hangers out one at a time, to look at each garment, I was surprised to realize each was “speaking” to me.
I soon discovered these clothes represented fear about the future, fear about who I really am (and who I am not), fear about my value and worth.
How is that even possible?! It’s a collection of threads, for heaven’s sake!
What’s more, so many of the messages were lies. On hangers. They said:
You’ll have to settle – you can’t get and don’t deserve what you really want.
This is too beautiful for you. You’re not that person.
You can’t rely on anyone but yourself.
If your husband dies, you’ll have to go back to work full time. Be ready.
Strength comes from looking good.
Look outside yourself for love.
You can’t trust your own experience; just ignore these emotions.
You can control everything – how you’re perceived, how others feel.
You can hide here. Be invisible.
I became aware of emotions, too.
The beautiful paisley skirt? I noticed sadness on that hanger. I’d worn it for my daughter’s baptism, but now it reminded me of my Aunt Barbara, who’d died shortly afterward.
When I can’t imagine my future I tend to cling to the past; to what’s familiar. Even when it doesn’t fit me anymore.
But fear calls us to prepare, to decide what action we need to take.
If you find yourself confronting fear in your own pursuit of the Clutter Free life, steep yourself in God-reality:
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
Identify the fear or lie that each item brings up. Be specific.
Trust that God will take care of your needs. “Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.”Luke 12:5
Make a decision about what you will do – or not do.
In faith, make room for the new thing God is preparing.
As I read the final words in the 12th chapter of Luke, I felt myself exhaling.
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving.” Luke 12:24 (MSG)
God, help me to be grateful for all you have already given me. Help me let go and live lightly. Keep me open to receive what you want to give me, above all your love and direction.
Kimberly Gonsalves helps parents thrive while raising capable, connected, compassionate, resilient kids. An ICF-accredited coach, she combines Adlerian-based principles of mutually respectful relationships with the science of healthy habit creation, helping parents bring their best to their most important leadership roles. Married for 25 years, she and her husband have a young adult son and high school aged daughter. Her family provides daily opportunities to practice walking her talk. Her motto is “Be creative: make a new mistake today!”