While perusing a Pottery Barn catalogue the other day, i came across this picture.
Now, i will admit, for all that i think the Pottery Barn embodies all-that-is-wrong-with-America, a not-so-small part of my brain went “OOOooooo, pretty!” But an even larger part of my brain sort of lauged out loud…this is supposed to be a CLOSET y’all. Not only is it bigger (and way fancier) than my whole bedroom, but really…whose stuff looks like that? Where are the gym clothes and the mismatched socks? What about the husband’s collection of 80’s rock band t-shirts; the baseball caps and the dirty towels? Where are the kids’ grubby pj’s that somehow wind up in your clean clothes every single time you think you’ve brought some order to your space?
Whatever princess has this dressing room set up in her boudoir, i don’t think we could be friends. Because my closet looks a little more like this…
I think most of us live in the space between the Princess-Pope’s closet, and the TLC Hoarder-slash-college boys’ dorm room closet. Some mix of almost-controlled chaos that might look like a mess to an outsider, but well, it’s OUR mess. When we need that brown belt that goes with everything, we can pretty much find it. Usually. Because every now and then–maybe once a year, or maybe seasonally–most of us go about cleaning out the clutter, simplifying the excess, righting the universe…
And that’s Lent in a nutshell. It’s time to clean out the spiritual closet, take stock, get rid of the things that no longer give us life (or fit) and make some space for whatever new thing the Holy might show us.
What I’ve found about cleaning a closet (my brother and my friend Bridget might want to turn away for a moment…) is that I have to make a much bigger mess…ok, several big messes…before anything actually winds up where it should go. I have to take out a bunch of junk and make keep/throw away/give away piles; i have to try things on–sometimes in combination; i have to berade myself for that article of clothing that i find, with tags still on, that i’ve had for a year and never worn once; i have to mourn the once-favorite pair of jeans that, 2 babies later, will never fit again; i have to find mates for all my shoes.
In short…it gets messy. It can be painful. There is an element of degradation involved, alot of ‘looking back’ (why did i ever buy this?) and looking ahead (will i ever wear this again?) and ultimately, a journey of self-examination. And, did i mention, some mess?
In this season of reconciliation, we return to the God of our being…the God who made heaven and earth, and even our little selves…and to do that, we’ve got to clean out the clutter. It’s the season for refreshing our spiritual wardrobe, tossing what we’ve outgrown, releasing that which is no longer in style–all the while, keeping a discerning eye out for that which is timeless, classic, even vintage– and ultimately making a space for the Holy to enter.
Trouble is, once we’ve made space, our tendancy is to fill it again. That Princessy dream closet up top? I could junk that up in about 3 days flat. 3 hours if my kids were helping. Our eye finds a place to rest, and before we know it, our outgrown, unlaundered, irrelevant junk creeps in like weeds in the desert.
In the days ahead, it is our task, our calling, maybe even our burden, to keep some space open. The resulting void freaks us out a little… but it might be the most sacred space we can know.