Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hoarders and My Heart

I couldn’t turn the television off the other night. I had stumbled on the series, aired by A&ETV, that is focused on compulsive hoarding. Now I consider myself somewhat of a pack rat, but according to a newspaper estimate there are as many as six million compulsive hoarders.


Compulsive hoarders are people who can’t stop accumulating and storing possessions. In this particular episode, there were two women who were threatened with eviction if they did not clean up their living spaces. Their homes were so filled by possessions that they had only very narrow passageways through mounds and mounds of boxes, clothing, and even rotting food. The result was an astounding mess that towered over them in a menacing way.

One woman was desperately ashamed and saddened by her situation. She expressed sorrow that her life had gotten to such a state and cried out to Jesus for help. Her friends, relatives, and a professional counselor were called in to help remedy the situation. She seemed eager to start the cleaning process.

But when the day arrived, the task was not so easy. With each item being considered for the trash pile, whether it was a never opened doll in a box, a bundle of old newspaper clippings, or even leftover birthday party napkins, she would vehemently argue against the decision. “I can’t get rid of that!” she would exclaim. “I need that. I have to keep it.”

Her friends and family were tireless, holding up item after item. The counselor was amazingly patient, telling her she could keep some things and attempting to reason with her in others.

But, in both situations, the possessions won. These things seemed to have an iron-clad hold on both the women and their hearts. In the end, their hoarding would cost them their lives, their homes, and their sanity.

When I was a young girl, I read a small booklet titled “My Heart Christ’s Home” by Robert Munger. The author paints a picture of the heart as an actual residence. When Jesus arrives, the owner of the home proudly shows Him each room. At the living room, he says, this is where my guests love to come. You are welcome here. Come sit by the fireplace on this lovely easy chair.

But Jesus didn’t stop with the living room. He wanted to see the rest of the house. And so the owner showed him it, room by room. When the tour was over, Jesus said, but isn’t their one more room? The owner was mortified. How did Jesus know? How did He guess that the tour was not complete?

There was one more room – but it was a mess. It was cluttered with filth and sin. It was a secret place, where only the owner would go. No one else knew about it. How did Jesus?

This story convicted me at a young age that I needed to turn over all of my heart to Jesus – not just the pretty places. As an adult, I recognize that this task is not always easy. There are some sins, some struggles, so private, that we wish not only to keep them hidden, but to keep them. Like the hoarders who struggle with possessions, we hang on to the very sins that threaten to destroy us.

At the end of the story, the owner pleads with Jesus: "I'll give You the key, but You will have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven't the strength to do it."

"Just give me the key," He said. "Authorize me to take care of that closet and I will."

The owner continues, “With trembling fingers I passed the key to Him. He took it, walked over to the door, opened it, entered, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there, and threw it away. Then He cleaned the closet and painted it. It was done in a moment's time. Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!”

The good news of that simple message encourages me still today.

I don’t have to clean out the closet by myself. I can’t . . . I just have to give Christ the key.
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