Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cleaning Out Your Spiritual Closet

If you were hanging off the edge of a cliff, tired and scared, how long would you hold on? Would you hang on long after your body felt like giving out?

This was the scenario my martial arts instructor would describe for us as we held our legs high up in the air, toes pointed and poised for attack; our muscles aching and on fire, sweat pouring from every pore. He would keep us in that position until our legs turned to jelly. It was his way of instilling in us the concept of “non-quitting spirit.” I trained that way for over ten years until an injury three years ago benched me forever.

Sensei’s message of never giving up or letting go influenced my mental makeup. I was and always have been a driven type A personality but this mantra took me over the top. I became quite successful as a result. Consequently, I acquired lots of stuff in my life -- physically, mentally and emotionally. As the years passed, I held on to it all with dear life. But, I never took the time to evaluate what I was keeping or why.

I know someone who has held on to a house long after becoming a financial burden due to a ballooning mortgage. It was way too much house for her to begin with, but she had been seduced by the initial low payments. Unfortunately, you don’t get something for nothing and soon the payments began to escalate. Instead of cutting her losses, she held on by the skin of her teeth by working three jobs and renting out portions of her living space. After two years of this, she’s finally realized the cost of keeping the house outweighed any loss. It was time to let go.

Do you know how they capture monkeys? I read that trappers take a pot with a narrow opening and bury the pot until the opening is just above ground level. The hunters put pieces of food in it to attract the monkeys. When the monkeys reach inside the pot, their fist full of food cannot be pulled back out of the opening. The monkey begins to scream with frustration as he desperately tries to pull his hand out. Even when the hunter throws a net over the pot, the monkey won’t open his hand to drop his prized treat. The monkey chooses capture over freedom when all he had to do was let go!

In the children’s story, The Berenstain Bears and The Trouble at School, Brother Bear tries to cross a shallow creek but his bike keeps getting stuck deeper and deeper in the mud. Instead of admitting this path wasn’t a good choice, he presses forward until he is so stuck he can’t move. All Brother Bear had to do was let go of the bike but he stubbornly held on to it, just like the monkeys.

We all know people who have held on to hurts, grievances, dead-end relationships or jobs long past their time. It might even be you. I know I have. Instead of letting them go, we held on to them as tightly and passionately as Gollum clung to his “Precious” ring in Lord of the Rings. If you are familiar with the book or movie, Gollum’s ring was anything but precious and was nearly the ruin of them all. How much easier it would have been had he relinquished the ring but like the monkeys, my friend with the house, Brother Bear and his bike, Gollum held on to it and wouldn’t let go, even when holding on caused pain and suffering.

At what price do we hold on to things that we should let go of? The Casting Crown’s song, “Let It Fade” asks the same question and gently reminds us that “things” are just temporary.

Have you been holding on to what this world has offered?
Have you been giving in to all these masquerades?
It will be gone, forever gone.
It will be gone, it will be gone…
Let it fade

We can hold on to material possessions that eventually break, rust or go out of style. We can hold on to hurts and bitter roots, too but none of that will allow our lights to shine. When we hold on to those things, we imprison ourselves and dim our spirit. It takes courage to clean our spiritual closets but what if you did? What would fill that empty space? Emptiness can be scary because you can feel vulnerable and exposed. Letting go to “let God” is not an easy thing to practice. Life is tough. It is a lot easier to hide behind a force field of “stuff” so we don’t get hurt, have to feel or grow. Or, we can replace that stuff filling up our lives, hearts and minds with other things; things that may not have worldly value per se but in the spiritual realm are deemed priceless. Like what? A song by Jeff Deyo gives us these suggestions:

More love, more power
More of You in my life…
More faith, more passion
More of You in my life…

How about filling your life with more of that? What would your life be like then? Of course, embracing a sense of “nonquitting spirit” isn’t entirely bad. We shouldn’t give up easily when the Holy Spirit urges us to continue with a mission placed on our heart. We shouldn’t give up on family and friends who are not walking their walk or who haven’t begun their walk yet. But, we need to learn what to hold on to and what to let go of. However, the one thing we should never let go of like we were hanging over the edge of that proverbial cliff is our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Without that, nothing else really matters. The bible promises that if you “…cast your cares on the Lord, he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

We all hold on to things way past their prime, even when we know it’s better to let it go. So, how about making time to spring clean your spiritual house? Stop and take a moment to examine what’s taking up space in your hearts, minds and souls. Why not start today? Even if you only let go of one thing, it’s the journey that counts. Let me know if you do. I’d love to know what happens when you let go to let God refill you.

I’ll leave you with this thought. When God leads you to the edge of that cliff, trust in him fully and then, let go. Only one of two things will happen—either he will catch you when you fall or he’ll teach you how to fly!

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A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17

A new life has begun! II Cor 5:17
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