My garage needs a good cleaning. You would think after just having a graduation party two years ago….it wouldn’t need this big of a cleaning, but it does.
Welcome to my garage: aka, the dumping place for everything we don’t want to bring into the house, and everything we want to get out of the house. Right now it currently houses two oversized tube t.v.’s, our very first mattress and box-spring purchased from an estate sale back in 1992, boxes that belong to our oldest child who hasn’t lived with us since 2011, bikes, golf clubs, tools rarely used, antique beer signs, etc…along with everything else that is not allowed in the house and everything else already taken out of the house that is forbidden to re-enter. There is always an unachieved plan for the “don’t bring it in!” and the “get it out!” things. A plan to take them to a better place. Where they will be happy. Or at least I will be happy for never having to see them again. But the clutter continues to build….as salt-stained boxes teeter on top coolers and pieces of furniture from another time awaiting new life. Leaves continue to blow in and out, small sandbars form in dark oily corners, salt and grime accumulate on the floor under things, around things, and on things, leaving the boxes stained, dirty and broken down…with the bottom about to drop out. And if we are honest, this is a picture of our hearts. Yeah, sometimes it feels like the bottom is about to drop out of the cluttered messes of our lives and hearts…….
We have now neglected this overwhelming accumulation in our garage so long, we still have graduation decorations mysteriously blowing in the wind, desperately clinging to the ceiling where they have been push-pinned to from the last kid who graduated. A bit faded, but hey, congrats to the next one in three weeks! Tiny shiny blue stars have made there way into the landscaping over the course of a determined two year journey from garage to just around the corner of the garage, and alongside the back of the house….somehow surviving 30 below winters, and 100 degree heat-waves of summer. Congratulations to them. And, if clothes can be hand-me-downs, why not the now dull, once gleaming “Congratulations Graduate” sign? This is my garage. Welcome to my dumping ground where moved out children’s things still linger in the salt of winter’s past…and graduation decorations still blow as one season ushers in another… and if I stand there staring long enough…. at those things….in the garage….. memories begin to surface from within those un- insulated four walls…a place where haunting echoes of 80’s music barely blares to the rhythm of waxing a car…extra-long guitar solos from the calloused fingers of long-haired rockstars and the scent of turtle wax drift off….. I can hear voices now…..agitated voices hiding from children but exposing feelings in full at one another…. (garages are good for hidden arguments and and full on marital wars)…they too fade, floating away in a sea of selfish anger and blame ….and the sound of whispers and giggles in between stolen kisses now….two teenagers in the silent black before dawn ….cautious, yet carefree…..trying not to interrupt the slumber of two 40 year old heads pressed deep into down fluffiness….unaware parents. This is my garage, and things have happened here. Some good and memorable, like the 80’s music that somehow made the old ride come to life. Or the barely strips of sticky tape where lines were once laid on cement so my daughter could practice walking again after brain injury. And then some bad, like unseen word weapons landing on and penetrating an already wounded heart. This extension of our home has housed small animals in shoeboxes, and fed strays….. but it has also housed things that moth and rust destroy…..and it has become bitter, bitter cold in the dead of winter. And now it must be cleaned for yet another celebration. The junk has to go, the broken boxes need burning…
And just like this old cluttered garage…I can’t help but think it somehow represents our hearts. Oh how we can hold onto “things” in our hearts. We can stack them up and make them look organized all we want….we can even make sin look organized….so it doesn’t seem so, well “sinful.” We will just tidy it up, without really getting rid of it….like gossip…I’ll just put that in my small group box….no one will see it over in this corner. Or self-performance….I’ll store it in my ministry box over in this corner, for under the guise of ministry it won’t look like sin……or bitterness toward church leadership….I can stack that up in a box and label it “concern for our church”…. or judgment toward brothers and sisters in Christ….I’ll box that one up and label it “other people’s sin.” But all too soon, the boxes neatly tucked away in the corners of our cold hearts become too weighed down, battered over time….and the bottom is about to give way. We become burdened with our sin and we don’t even recognize it as sin. It’s just the stuff of life that accumulates over time in our hearts. We tell ourselves there isn’t anything wrong with holding onto it….I mean, there really isn’t any sense in getting rid of it. After all, we’ve become comfortable with the cluttered garages of our hearts, dark and dingy and overflowing with unwanted stuff as they may be. But if we listen long enough……standing in the center of our own hearts…..we will see and hear things that need to go. We will see and hear things that need to stay. And then we know….the good things that need to stay are there because Jesus is there….He’s been there a long while now standing in the middle of it with us, and he’s looking at all those boxes that need to go…..and in a flood of mercy and kindness He motions toward the cross…. and so one by one we carry our bottomed-out boxes to Him…..taking with us words….weak, broken words….take my gossip, my self-performance, my judgmental heart, my pride. And faithfully He takes from us the weight of those beaten and worn boxes and cleanses the dark corners of our hearts with a downpour of grace that floods in and washes away our sin, right down to the dirty oil stains that we could never scrub away in full….and now we can unashamedly CELEBRATE! Our hearts are clean, the burden of sin is gone, no more stacking…hiding….organizing away in neat little corners. Once again, Grace has entered in…..and we dance with delight and celebrate a grace we do not deserve.