Thursday, July 24, 2008

Grace To Me

I'm not a great housekeeper. And actually, being a great housekeeper is neither here nor there. Good housekeeping is not a moral issue. At least it shouldn't be. There's no chart or graph with good housekeepers in the 'spiritual' section and bad housekeepers in the 'hopelessly flawed' section. Indeed, an incredible housekeeper could have a nasty attitude about it and belong in the hopelessly flawed section. And a bad housekeeper could have a huge, loving heart and belong in the spiritual section. (Or she could have iron-clad excuses like small boys and fibromyalgia.)

But behind all of that, for me, was a mean, nagging voice in the back of my head. You know that voice. It says things like, "Your house looks horrible. You're lazy. Why don't you just clean it up? You'll never be a good housekeeper. You'll always have clutter lying around everywhere. Why haven't you taught your children to pick up after themselves yet? You're a bad mom. And did you notice your husband digging through the clean laundry on the bedroom floor? You're not being a good helper to him by providing him with clean clothes in a timely manner so he's not late for work. You're a bad wife."

Need I continue? Of course not. You all know exactly what I'm talking about because the same voice does or did speak to you.

So. Here's what happened.

The morning after we returned from our second summer trip a month ago, I woke up, looked around my room, and launched immediately into my negative self-talk. Within less than a minute I felt totally defeated, again, by the clutter blocking my path, again. Granted, we'd just returned from a trip, but (here went the negative self-talk again) it would have been a lot easier to put away *this* trip if I'd managed to put away the *last* trip.

In the midst of this, I sat down to my devotions. God's lesson for me that day was forgiveness. It came from several different venues: Oswald Chambers, Beth Moore, the Bible, Our Daily Bread, etc. I sat there thinking, "Hmmm...I can't think of anyone I need to forgive for anything. What are you trying to say to me, Abba?"

Right about that time, my mind wandered back to the clutter, and all at once it hit me.

The person I needed to forgive was me.

I needed to forgive myself for being a bad housekeeper. In other words, I needed to stop allowing myself to live a condemned, defeated, hopelessly flawed existence. I needed to let go of every single one of my past housekeeping mistakes, and start fresh. I needed to give myself grace.

My problem with the above is that when it comes to my home, I equate 'giving myself grace' with 'giving myself permission to sit around'.

And besides that, do you know how corny it sounds to say, "I forgive myself"? It reminds me of the Stuart Smalley skit by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gonnit! People like me!"

But I could see that I truly was holding my house against me, so I took a deep breath and went for it. "Abba, I forgive myself for being a bad housekeeper. And more than that, I accept *Your* forgiveness for all of my housekeeping mistakes. I give my house to You."

One of the major factors in forgiveness is what you think about the other person after you've made the choice to forgive. Do you say you've forgiven them and then continue to think mean, nasty thoughts about them? No. You choose to think the best about them while God heals your heart. Otherwise you have to keep forgiving over and over and over again.

So was it okay for me to continue to think mean, nasty thoughts about yesterday's housekeeping mistakes, reliving them in my mind over and over and over again? No. Not okay. And when I did spend my time thinking those thoughts, what effect did it have on me? Well, I'll tell you. I quit trying. I burdened myself so heavily with my own labels about my own inadequacy that I believed through and through that I was actually incapable of having a clean home, and therefore, I simply gave up.

So my condemning spirit toward *me* kept my house cluttered and filthy. Am I making any sense? I hope so.

What God did for me that morning a month ago was this: He helped me to stop condemning myself. He took the burden of my housekeeping failures off my shoulders and gave me the hope to try again.

Here's the miracle.

Ever since that day, even with extra trip paraphernalia, small boys, and fibromyalgia, my home has stayed under control. Not under *my* control, mind you. Under *God's* control.

The thing is, to see my home turn so completely around in ONE DAY, after seven and a half years of trying and failing to run it the way I'd wanted to, is seriously a total and complete miracle. Only God could do that.

Is my house now perfect? Not by any stretch. Does it get cluttered? Absolutely. Do I get behind on the dishes? You bet.

So what's the difference? Well, a condemned person lives a condemned life. A forgiven person lives an abundant life. Because I have ceased to condemn myself, my house no longer bears evidence of that condemnation.

In a practical sense, what this means is that my piles are smaller and they disappear much more quickly than they used to, put away by hands and heart filled with hope and infused with the absolute certainty of God's unconditional acceptance.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—-more than that, who was raised to life—-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:33-39