Fresh Starts, The Fresh Prince and My Closet
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This is a story all about how, my life got flip-turned upside down…
Alright, fine. I’m no fresh prince, not by a long shot, but I certainly know what it feels like to need a fresh start. My fortysomethings have been a pile of changes and flipturns: My kids grew up, my husband and I both powered through our undergrad and then grad school degrees, we changed churches, jobs, and started a business. For a girl who likes things to stay the same, it’s been a little… unsettling.
The fresh change, though, has brought with it the need for a fresh outlook. My faith had grown stale and stagnant, and was in desperate need of an overhaul. When I talk to my friends, trying to describe what’s been happening to me, spiritually, it sounds crazy:
Um, it’s sort of like… um. It’s like cleaning out a closet. I feel like I’ve been collecting all this …stuff… without taking anything out. Now I keep standing in front of this crowded, messy, disaster of a space and feel like I have nothing to wear. Have you ever done this? Totally gutted your closet in an epic purge-or-keep mission? You know, take out each item and REALLY look at it? As you sort through the pile, you think “Does this still fit, does this look good on me? Do I need it or is it way past its usefulness? Where did I get this? Is this even mine, or did I borrow it from someone else? Why do I keep all this junk?” And then tilt your head sideways to see if you believe in it enough to put back in the closet. And then, after painful sorting, you still are left with this pile of stuff you’ve been hanging onto because deciding if you want to keep it is going to take work- like stripping down and trying things on and looking in the mirror, and that just seems way too exhausting. And then you remember why you have been putting this off- because this is hard work. And decidedly not fun.
The closet analogy is pretty effective in describing this whole thing, except that cleaning out my spiritual junk pile makes tackling my physical closet feel like a walk in the park. I keep taking things out, one at a time, and asking God and myself, “Why do I believe this? Is this based on what the Bible says, or what my church leaders have been saying? Is this my culture or the truth? Do I really believe this, or is it junk? And to do this, I have to do the unthinkable: I have to strip down my defenses and my traditions, I have to take off my self-righteousness and political leanings. I have to try on each of my practices and thoughts and opinions and beliefs and take a good long look at the mirror and ask, “Does this fit the kind of Christian I think God wants me to be?” And then I realize why I’ve never really done this before. It’s hard work, y’all. No joke.
The sad news is, that even after 4 years, I’m still sorting. I am still wading through the dark recesses of my heart, searching for ill-fitting assumptions, outdated prejudices, mismatched ideals. Being willing to let God prune away things that I’ve held onto for a long time is maybe the hardest part. Knowing that it might mean I won’t see eye-to-eye with folks who I really love and respect doesn’t help the matter. Fearing people will see me as compromised or soft or heretical is scary too. But I can’t stop now. I can’t go back to pretending that the crud I’ve been clinging to is healthy or loving or right. I have to press on. I want with all my soul to be at least headed toward an authentic faith, fully examined and tested. I don’t want to go through life in a mismatched, outdated, ill-fitting faith any more than I’d like to walk around in that kind of a wardrobe. I want to be fresh. Real.
So, daily, I wade back in, pulling out more junk, showing it to God, asking Him to create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit within me, and grant to me a fresh start, hoping to say to the old, shallow me. “Yo, Holmes, smell ya later!” … or something like that. I’ll let you know how it goes.
*note: Right about the time I really wanted to quit this whole thing, I picked up a book by Sarah Bessey called Out of Sorts. The opening line grabbed me,
“Once upon a time, you had it all beautifully sorted out.
Then you didn’t.”
It was beautiful and inspirational, and helped me get up and over the funk. I highly recommend the read no matter where you are in the process.
- Unforgiveness - August 8, 2016
- Holy Matrimony, Batman! - July 26, 2016
- Asante Sana Squash Banana - June 21, 2016
Your post brought to my mind: Semper Reformanda. I know its a term for reformed churches, but I like to personally apply it to myself. I want to be “reformed and always in need of reforming.” Not that I want to be labeled “reformed” so much, as a person who always needs to be in the process of re-forming. Like your closet analogy, I want to look at what I believe and see if it still works as I continue on my path of faith and learning about God, Jesus, the Church, etc. Thanks, Amber-such a great example!
Rebecca- oh, I like that! Being reformed again and again! Exactly my hope too!
‘ I want with all my soul to be at least headed toward an authentic faith, fully examined and tested.’ I have believed, a faith unquestioned is not faith, it’s a cult. Yet, sometimes I find myself sitting in some flat, no-meaning faith and think that is good! You are brave to do this, but God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but one of courage. I, for one, am reminded by your post to exercise that spirit a little more than I have been doing.Thanks”
It does take a little bravery to go through out spiritual closets! I confess to being scared to tackle some of the big things, too. But you’re right! God does not give us fear. We can let him be the author and finisher of out faith without being afraid. Good reminder!
I spent a lot of time nodding my head in agreement as I read this, Amber. I’ve questioned a lot about my faith in the last several years and find that it’s ever evolving. Hopefully towards the truth. Such a great post!
Jen, I know I don’t have to tell you how hard this is. It’s good to know I have sisters doing it at the same time- such an encouraging thought!
This is a great post, Amber. The closet analogy is spot-on. And I love Rebecca’s exhortation to be “reformed and always in need of reforming.” I too, want to be fresh and real and authentic in my faith. Otherwise, why would anyone ask me the reason for the hope that I have?
Hi Diane! Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I agree- why would anyone want anything I have if I’m so miserable, fake, and stale?
I wonder if God gets tired of all of the spiritual overlay of man on top of His incredible, stand-alone work? I think you’re exactly right to be examining what you believe, really KNOWING what you believe, and why. God doesn’t wan’t blind faith. He tells us to hold up everything we hear and compare it to what He says is true. I know we’re meant to live in community, but community is often loud and unfiltered and the cultural and spiritual noise and shoulds just weigh me down. I know that Jesus stepped away when He needed to focus and (let’s face it, he didn’t have to re-align with God as we do) pray with His Father.
Girl, you are always iron to my iron.
It is so hard to do it in community (which is ironic, because that’s kind of a big part of it). I hadn’t thought of it before, but maybe that’s why this has been such a long stretch of closet-cleaning. I’ve been so isolated from people this season of life (working from home, feeling disconnect at church, etc), maybe that’s why I’ve had the bandwidth lately. ditto to the iron comment, amiga.
Closet cleaning- ugh! I prefer to just keep the door closed. Because you think it’s going to be this pretty quick task and when you get knee deep you’re like “what on earth have I unraveled” and then “where do I even start” and finally “I’m too darned tired to finish.” I’m so glad that God sees behind my closed door into my heart and he knows that even when things get messy my intent is pure. I’m convinced that God wants us to question, to re-examine, so we can be sure that we’re following him with our own convictions. Not beliefs that were put upon us by family, friends, our upbringing, society- of course we’ll be shaped by our experiences, yet I think we are constantly reshaped by God.
Side note- in the fall of 1990 I called my husband *then boyfriend* from a land line phone in my college dorm to tell him about this hysterical new TV show called the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
I”m a shut the door and pretend it’s not there girl, too. I feel like I’ve been a constant state of “what have I unraveled” for years now. I keep wanting to quit, but I do think that I’m getting closer to that goal of at least feeling like I’ve made some progress.
(also, your side note pleases me!)