What do you think I did as a little girl all those times I was sent to my room to await a beating? I cleaned my room of course! I knew if my dad saw the state of my room, the beating would be all the worse. My brother did the same thing. Is it any wonder we both grew up to be slobs?
Now, I’m not trying out for Hoarders, but there are chronic cleaning issues at my house. To go into detail would be embarrassing, even on an anonymous blog. It has been a source of contention for my husband ever since we married. This week, we had a heated argument about it (and other things, of course). When we discussed all this with our therapist, he wisely pointed away from my cleaning (or lack of it) as the source of the problem. Still, I have been taking a much closer look at this issue in myself this week.
I can plan cleaning sessions like nobody’s business, but when it come time to actually get started, I freeze. This week I’ve practiced mindfulness in those moments, looking deep into my heart and asking myself what I am feeling and why. I feel deeply depressed, even sick to my stomach. I feel tired and afraid. All the negative feelings overwhelm me, and before I know it, I’m sitting on the couch checking Facebook again. As the song goes, “What’s goin’ on inside me? I despise my own behavior.”
What seems clear to me is that I associate cleaning with pain and abuse. When I start to clean my house, I feel all those feelings I used to feel cleaning while waiting for a beating. The dread of those moments transfers to the present and paralyzes me. I obviously need healing in this area.
Last night, as my mindfulness meditation, I chose Psalm 23. I pondered each phrase.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Wait a minute! He restores my soul? He does? Really? That’s what it says. He restores my soul.
You mean, God wants to fix the broken parts of me? He wants to turn me back into the beautiful person He created me to be? Is that possible?
When an antiquer/restorer goes to the flea market, he searches for the things others have overlooked. He wants that special piece he can return to its original beauty. He finds it, buys it, takes it home. He stares at it for a long time. He’s imagining it in its former glory. Then he gets the wood stripper and begins taking off the old paint. Why would anyone want to paint over this beautiful wood? he wonders. Gently, carefully, he wipes and brushes away the changes others have made. Then he sands the wood smooth, being sure to remove the last vestiges of abuse. Finally, he applies oil to the wood, and the piece glows again.
I think this is what my Restorer is doing in me. He’s stripping off the paint people have slapped on me to get me to look the way they wanted. He’s sanding smooth the splinters of abuse that have arisen from my core. And He’s rubbing in the healing oil that will return me to the original beautiful woman He created me to be.
I’m not there yet. I still feel dread when it comes time to clean, but I’m cleaning anyway. And I’m trusting my Good Shepherd to complete the work He has begun in me.
ADDENDUM: A few days after I wrote this, I had the opportunity to buy myself some new t-shirts, you know, the everyday kind. I really needed new shirts because I tend to get grease on mine while I’m working in the kitchen and I’ve never quite figured out how to get it out. Well, I loved my new shirts and didn’t want them to be ruined too. So I decided to pull out an old apron and start wearing it when I was working to protect my clothes. Not only does it feel really good to be taking care of my new things like this, something amazing happens every time I put on that apron. The depression lifts. I feel energized. There’s a spring in my step, and work gets done without dread. The other day I started working in my room while my apron was downstairs. I just pretended I was wearing the apron, and the depression lifted. He really does restore my soul.
Photo Credit: Richard, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rich701/5834476660/in/photostream/