“Open to me, the doors of repentance O Lifegiver, for my soul rises early to pray towards Your holy temple…”
Sunday night, as I finished up some things before bed, I was startled by the sound of thunder. A thunderstorm? On the next to last day in February? The light and sound show intensified outside the window, as I watched the rain pour down hard and fast. As I crawled into bed, I was actually looking forward to a rainy night. The sweet lull of the water on the roof hadn’t been heard in months. It did pass through my mind, though, as I drifted off to sleep, that surely all that rain couldn’t be good on top of nine inches of snow.
Monday morning, my husband texted me, saying that he had brought a box of work materials from the garage to the office. For some reason, the papers were awfully damp. I walked over to the door from the house to the garage. As I opened it, I was instantly hit by what my husband didn’t notice in his hurry-to-work-at-dawn routine…the smell. It smelled like the lake on a breezy day. It smelled wet.
I stepped out into the garage, and my bare feet squished on the sopping wet mat by the door. It took a minute for everything to register, because there was no water on the floor at the time. But my eyes began to focus and scan the distinctive line running all around the room. The flood line.
The drain in the middle of the garage had backed up. About two inches of water had filled virtually every corner of the garage. Apparently, it went down as fast as it came up, but just a few inches of water can do a lot.
For many people, water in the garage would be no big deal. Their garages are just homes for garden tools and kids’ riding toys. But not our garage. Definitely not our garage. Our rental house is on the small side…I hate to even use the term “small”. It’s small by American standards, but our standards are often skewed. We have no basement and limited storage, so we store everything in the garage.
Last year, I began a simplicity journey. I went through each and every corner of my house, decluttering and conducting a massive overhaul of our space. Life was getting too complicated, and it’s hard to pray in chaos. So, as I went through the rooms, we boxed up items we didn’t need anymore and put them in the garage. We were going to have a yard sale. The pile grew and grew, until one corner of the room was filled to bursting. Then, we started the shop. More things got added. Extra inventory, packing supplies, etc. What didn’t fit on the shelving unit we put up stayed in boxes on the floor, waiting to find a permanent home. The other side of the garage was lined with plastic containers of camping supplies, out of season clothes, and old homeschool materials. Not that you knew what was actually in any of the containers. They weren’t labeled, so whenever someone went out to the garage to look for something, they just shoved everything out of the way and created more disarray.
By the time I finished decluttering the inside of the house, the garage had become a seething pit of despair. My teeny little compact station wagon barely fit in the mess. I was always cautioning the kids not to open the doors too quickly. The leaning towers of excess might topple at any moment. Every time I pulled in the driveway and opened the garage door, I sighed. What a mess! And then I ran in the house and shut the door.
You see, that yard sale never came. I was sick all summer and then was in the hospital. It turned cold, and nobody wanted to stand out in the garage to do anything. My husband’s insane seven day a week, three job work schedule made for little free time as we just tried to keep our heads above water. Oh, the water…
I called my husband and told him to take the rest of the day off work and come home. As we stood in the garage, we looked at the situation. Sure, only the bottom of every stack was wet. But to get to the wet, we had to go through the rest of it. No more putting it off. We were going to have to use this opportunity to clean it all up once and for all.
“…and have wasted my life in laziness.”
About twenty minutes into the clean up, I turned to my husband and asked, “What is wrong with us that we let our lives get this way?” We are not a rich family, so we don’t have a lot of toys. No electronic wonders. No newest and best and brightest. We are surrounded by mismatched hand-me-downs and thrift store make-do’s. We are not a rich family, so it’s far too easy to convince ourselves that we’re not attached to material things. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The less you have, the more you keep. You don’t know if you’ll have the money to buy a new such and such, so by golly, you better hold on to this worn down no good such and such just in case! We cannot afford many things, but we sure as heck have a lot of stuff.
There are a lot of excuses why I found myself going through boxes of curtains from four houses ago, books no one ever read or ever will, and craft supplies that seemingly reproduced of their own accord when you shut the lid of the box. Some of those excuses are pretty valid ones. But life just gets so exhausting, when all you do is make excuses…
I have a candle lit in my icon corner right now for all the families who truly suffered this week. People are living through severe damage to homes and businesses. People are trying just to live. It’s raining outside again, and just when we thought it was over, there will be more flooding somewhere today.
We had our own mess this week, but it was no disaster. It was a gift.
All week long, I’ve been singing…Open to me the doors of repentance, O Lifegiver. A song we hear this time each year, announcing that Lent is coming. Lent begins on Monday, and I needed a good flood to motivate me. I’ve spent years shoving out of sight those unpleasant memories, those pesky little sins that can just be dealt with later. Or really aren’t so bad. Or are inconvenient to face. I’ve treasured and held onto so much baggage, crushed by the weight, yet comforted by the familiarity. I’ve moved those precious sins with me from place to place, squirreling them away in that special corner I reserve for the darkness. I’ve filled and packed my soul with boxes and boxes and boxes. I’ve run inside myself and shut the door to avoid looking at the mess. And I’ve made excuses…oh so many excuses.
Open to me the doors of repentance, Lord. Let this Lent be one of purging and renewal. Help me throw away all this garbage. It’s all just garbage… And it’s not that I really even want all this stuff, I’ve just been too lazy to deal with it. I’ve wasted my life in laziness, Lord. Help me not to waste another moment.
“Like David I cry to Thee…Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me, O God. According to Thy great mercy.”