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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.