Monday, April 22, 2013

When God Cleans House

There are times when God will clean your house. I don’t mean that He comes and does the laundry and vacuums and scrubs the tub, though it would be really great to have someone else do that so I don’t have to do it. When God cleans house, it can be in a combination of ways, the physical, in that He’ll have you get rid of stuff that you don’t need any more, things you’ve been holding onto that are holding you back, things from the past that have no purpose now, things that are broken that you hang onto because you liked them once or loved someone who gave them to you or they have a connection to a time and place that you want to stay close to in your memory. He’ll have you do that stuff sometimes, that kind of house cleaning, but there’s another kind of house cleaning, the deep cleaning, that comes sometimes during and sometimes after that physical removal of the old stuff,  and both happen often before you’re about to go through a passage to a new place in your life. This other kind of house cleaning is a cleansing of the mind, the spirit and the heart, and when God comes in to clean those places out, it can be really painful because those things that have to go are so deeply lodged in there that it sometimes feels like they’re things we need when they really are things that have to go. They’re dead things that still have deep roots that are intertwined with everything else that is still alive, but those roots are choking the living things and keeping new things from growing.

I love to garden and I love plants, and God often talks to me through those places. I was cleaning up some of my house plants yesterday – I’ve been slowly beginning to take some of them outside – the weather is still chilly here at night and even on some days, so I’ve been taking them out later than I usually do. But yesterday seemed a good day to take my geranium outside and to plant a miniature rose I had on my window sill that really needs the fresh air to thrive. When I take the plants inside in the winter, there is always a bit of a crunch on the window sills for space. One of the things I lost during the time when I was found - the time when I was born again – were many of my house plants. During those darkest hours before the dawn of Christ in my life I had been living in a place where the heat had been shut off. It was deep midwinter, and the building was old and drafty.  I was miserably cold, but I could bundle up in layers and survive. The plants didn’t do as well. The ones that did survive the freezing cold, didn’t survive the next two years of moving three times. Each time I moved I lost more plants until I moved into my current apartment and I was almost down to nothing. But God restores all things above and beyond what we have lost – this is true in every area, and He did it with the plants, too. I visited a green house when I was at a conference on a college campus, and when I asked if I could have some of the pieces of some cutttings they were throwing away, the woman who worked there gave me cuttings of almost everything in the place and some full plants. That was another amazing way that God showed me how He shows up when we do things His way. In the past I would have just taken the cuttings - they were throwing them away, right? But because I was polite and respectful and asked instead of just taking, I was blessed above and beyond what I could have taken on my own.

One of those plants was a type of cactus, and it had been thriving for several years, but this past winter, something happened at some point and it shriveled up to very hard, dry stalks where it had once been succulent and green. I decided to clean it out of its pot yesterday, but when I tried to pull it out by the roots, they were deep in the soil. It was definitely dead, there was no life in the plant at all, but the roots had grown so deep and strong that they were still hanging onto everything they could under the earth. I realized then that this is what God has been doing in my life lately – He’s been helping me see where things are dead and gone and where they need to be taken out so that new life can grow. Just as those roots hung on, there are things that have been hanging on or that I have been hanging onto that need to go before the new things He's planted can grow.
It gets confusing sometimes because there are things that have been good things to have that now aren’t good for me any more. People who have changed, or I have changed, or something has been lost in the connection. Memories, love letters, old clothing. Things that seem to have no negative impact, but that are taking up space that needs to be free to be filled with something new. The process is intense and healing as it unfolds over time. A few months ago I deleted all of the emails from the relationship I was in during the two years before I was born again. I had already recycled most of the gifts I’d been given – I didn’t want to throw them away, so I gave them to friends or donated them – but the emails I’d been saving, I don’t know why, for the same reason I had been saving love letters from years ago I guess. A memory of something that had once been beautiful, “It seems such a shame, we start out so kind but end so heartlessly,” as the Joni Mitchell song goes. I tore up the old love letters, not angrily or in any way with a feeling of wanting to burn them and destroy them the way we do when we are still angry or hurt, I just tore them up to keep the words private before I thew them away. And then I went to the emails, and in a moment they were gone. I felt such a relief, such a weight was taken off. I didn’t realize that I’d been carrying the pain of the heartless ends of those relationships when I thought I had been carrying the kindness and the love.

Last night when I was making dinner, a thought came to me that was another amazing God moment. I was singing that Joni Mitchell song, and out of nowhere I had the thought that I didn’t regret any of my old relationships, or anything in my past. After I was born again, I spent the first year at the altar of the church I started attending, weeping with remorse for the life that I’d lived and the mistakes I’d made, so desperately sorry that I had made such a mess of things and that I'd wasted so much time and so many gifts and resources that God had given me, so desperately sorry that I had wasted His love and His time. There was one day when I was talking to Him and saying how sorry I was, and He answered, “About what?” And I said, oh, come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and I started to list all of the things, and He replied, “I forgot about that, remember?” One of His promises is that when we come to Him with a heart of repentance, He forgives us and gives us a new life, and He also washes our sins away and forgets them (Micah 7:18-19). He takes our transgressions as far away as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:10-12). Once He forgives us, they’re gone, and that forgiveness  happens immediately, the moment we turn to Him. But even knowing that intellectually, I didn’t take it in fully, into my spirit and heart and soul. Those things from the past were still in my mind, as reminders every day, those roots had grown so deep they were choking the new life and growth.

Little by little, over time, God has been weeding in the garden and cleaning up the dead roots hidden underground. It’s not that I want to go back and live that old life again, but I have no regrets. I am able to allow those things and those people to just be what they were, and to know that they are not that same thing now, just as I am not the same now. I am also finally fully able to forgive – myself and those people and those situations. I’m able to let them go.

If there’s something in your past that you’ve been hanging onto, I encourage you to let it go. Let God wash it in the River of Forgetfulness. It could be something that seems small and even could be something that was a positive thing. But it’s past and it’s gone and it’s time to move forward, into the new place of life that God has for you.

Jannie Susan



  1. What you have shared is very valuable and helpful. All the information you have shared gives me more insights on this. Thank you for sharing. Keep it up! Would like to see more updates from you soon.

    Water Blaster

    1. You're very welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Blessings to you!