Field Notes From A Prayer Warrior

Decluttering my heart…

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139: 23-24

I’m a “little passionate” about decluttering…yes, the whole “spark joy, closet purge, minimalism” thing. I’ve only seen a couple episodes of “Hoarders,” and, like a lot of people, I’ve thought, “How is that POSSIBLE? How does anyone LIVE with that?”

Again, clarity comes in unexpected ways…

The sermon was about…forgiveness. I sat there and thought, “Cool! Been here, done that…forgive others as I’ve forgiven you…yup, yup, yup…I even PRAY for those I’ve forgiven! That box, totally checked off! Woo! Yay, me! I rock!!!”

Um…humble much, Shelbo?

Please tell me I’m not the only one that thinks a sermon “doesn’t really apply to me anymore…I have grown soooo much…” and then He has to come and slap you upside the head?

The next morning I read the “search my heart” verse, so as I sat down in prayer, I asked Him…

And, BAM!

Up popped “Curtis.”

My stomach lurched violently.

“Not that one, Lord. Please? Do I have to?”

In the second grade (oh, yeah, dudes, I’d been hanging onto this one for a looooong time), there were four of us in an advanced reading group. I saw us as kind of a “nerd tribe.” I could be myself with them and for a while escape the persecution that came with being a bookworm in the ’70’s.

We were standing in the hall, waiting to reenter the classroom and Curtis turned to me, unprovoked, and said, “Shelby, you’re ugly. You are SO UGLY. You should wear a paper bag over your head, that’s how ugly you are.”

Our door finally opened, saving me from further abuse. Shock turned to humiliation and tears swam in my eyes, but the last thing I wanted was to cry and have to answer questions and in the retelling make the pain and betrayal even more real.

And now I needed to forgive this person, the one who had introduced me to the concept of someone being mean FOR NO REASON, the one who made me feel well into college that the most I could hope for is to “not be too tragic-looking” and “Well, I guess I’m going to have to rely on my personality.”

I had to forgive HIM?!

“Lord, really? I don’t want to forgive him. I’m justified here. I was a nice person and he went out of his way to be cruel and I still have scars from that. Forgive him? He doesn’t DESERVE to be forgiven.”

“I died on the cross for you. Did YOU deserve THAT?”

*mic drop*

I hung my head. Sigh.

In the very next moment, wholeheartedly, with peace and conviction, I forgave Curtis…

Where all that pain and resentment and, yes, hate had been…a spot opened up…and was instantly filled again…with LOVE.

How many more bins and boxes were piled up in the corners of my heart “just enough out of the way” to ignore…

“I’ll get to those someday.”

“They aren’t hurting anything just tucked away like that.”

“I don’t have time to mess with those. I’ve got a life, commitments.”

“A lot of people have boxes like these.”

“I took care of all the BIG boxes. These are just little ones. It’s fine.”

All. Lies.

And so began the decluttering of my heart…

“Lord, search my…OH! That was fast! Okay, I forgive him, I forgive her, I release all of that right now!”

Yeah. Once you’ve attacked one box, you get some momentum going!

I’ve released names into the wind while riding, sent them down the drain while cleaning, tossed them up to the Lord in my “war room.” Like any exercise of this kind, what is emerging is a cleaner, healthier home…a peaceful space now full of…possibilities.

The home in my heart now has more room…

For His love.

For His light.

For Him.



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