I’m the kind of person who chronically stacks papers. I’m not exactly the most organized person on the face of the planet, although I have high hopes for myself. Maybe.
The stacks are well-intended. They are a nice, neat collection of things that I just haven’t gotten around to sorting.
The stacks are important, too. I don’t keep things I don’t value for some reason… which is probably what every pack rat says to help himself sleep at night.
There’s a little bit of everything in the stacks. I used to draw a lot, so some of it is sketches. Or if some kind of philosophical question runs through my head, I’ll write it down because I tend to forget things, even when they’re important. Ideas for fiction. The beginnings of lyrics. Letters. Assignments. Essays. Lists. Notes. Mail I keep telling myself I’ll read later, which isn’t a lie, but I haven’t exactly figured out when “later” is.
It all comes into my life somehow, lands on the counter, on the table, on my dresser, on my desk, in every seat but the driver’s seat of my car. Then they mostly land in a jumbled-up mess on the floor, because they’re just in the way of everything else I need to get to or use. I’ll spend a decent amount of time staring blankly at them, due to the sheer vastness of all of it. I’ll breathe out a sigh so as to say, “Let’s get this over with.”
Read. Categorize. New pile.
Read. Categorize. New pile.
Read. Get cripplingly nostalgic. Categorize. Potentially cry for no reason. New pile.
Read. Categorize. Existing pile.
Read. Evaluate. Throw away.
Read. Evaluate. Put in existing pile.
Remember the thing you threw away. Reach for it. Change your mind. Take a break because you just can’t do this right now.
Some days, you just can’t sort things out. Things never stop coming in. The mail doesn’t stop running just because you don’t check your mailbox. What is owed doesn’t get paid just because you won’t look at the bill. What’s broken doesn’t get fixed by putting it in a box in the attic. You don’t get to attend to every mess that’s made of the house you live in.
That’s okay. Sometimes, you have to.
Some days, you just have to lie in bed and grieve the things that are broken, lost, or forgotten (especially the forgotten). Some days have to be spent pouring out the bitterness that has been poured in before you forget what being filled with anything else is like.
But eventually, even good things run dry, and you have to be filled again before you die. What has been broken needs to be mended. The lost must be found, the forgotten must be remembered, and the piles need to be sorted.
Yes. The piles do need to be sorted. Something needs to happen with the many, many things that have accumulated.
Every soul contains a collection of experiences. We aren’t the sum of them, but they’re there regardless of how defined we are by them. And they won’t go away on their own. The mailbox gets stuffed. Dust gets caked onto the bookshelves. Lost things get covered up by the piles of junk that hasn’t been dealt with. Bills go unpaid and the power gets shut off, only to leave your mailbox stuffed with more late notices.
Probably the worst part about all of this is that knowing it doesn’t help anything. Knowing that life goes on doesn’t silence the grief, doesn’t bring back what was lost, doesn’t fix what was broken, and it definitely doesn’t sort the piles.
Sorting the piles is a choice that you have to either make or fail to. Even though it takes help. And I can promise you that it does take help. Thank God that he is greater than the piles… but we still have to accept the help or not.
Confession: I don’t want to sort the piles. They’re big, complicated piles of things that I really don’t want to deal with. There are bills, and projects, and ideas, and dreams, and memories. There are things that cost. There are things to be dealt with. There are things to hang on the wall. There are things to throw away (and I don’t like throwing away things that mean something to me).
So most days, I say, “God is bigger than my problems,” and go back to bed, leaving the piles where they are, growing until they’ve taken over the house of my heart. I have to step around them or shuffle them to get from one end of the house to the other, and it’s a dark house because remember: they shut off my electricity! But that problem is okay, because I mostly stay in bed, anyway.
But I have this sometimes-annoyingly persistent friend who keeps insisting he can help me, even though I don’t believe him most days when he says it. His name is Jesus.
He keeps knocking on the door, insisting that he can and wants to help me. I usually respond, “Awesome, that’s great,” then roll over.
The thing is, he has consistently helped me sort the things that I’ve experienced in my life, deal with them, and put them in their proper place. Really, the only reason I’ve been able to make sense of anything at all is the fact that he is better able to see my life than me. So I know better than to doubt him. I guess that means that “doubt” is really just a cover for not wanting to sort the piles.
Here’s the thing about dealing with stuff… it sucks.
When you go to pick up the pieces of shattered glass, you remember what was broken, and long for it to be new even though it might not be reparable. Even touching the glass can cut you.
When you find what was lost, you remember how careless you or someone else was in losing it.
We know that sorting things hurts, so we don’t want to, even though we know we must. Even if we know God is sovereign, and even if we know he can help, we don’t want to hurt. Whether that means remembering old pains that we don’t want to forgive, or not wanting to accept our own guilt… it’s just too much for us to deal with… and that’s exactly why Jesus is so persistent at the door. That’s exactly why that obnoxiously insistent friend won’t go away. He knows we need help, and he loves us too much to not offer it.
He isn’t even afraid that we will reject him, at least not afraid enough for it to stop him. His love is greater.
Yeah, we know Jesus could handle our problems, but that isn’t enough. In order to sort things, we have to be vulnerable to Jesus.
We know God is greater than our piles of problems… but how often do we use that as an excuse to never deal with our problems? Fun fact: your past really is important. If it weren’t it wouldn’t sting so much to touch it sometimes (or all the time). Do you think that God is so careless with your life, your story, your heart, that he’s just going to throw it all away?
Hang onto this basic truth: nothing is wasted in Jesus’ world.
He doesn’t break down the door and burn your house down so you’ll never have to deal with the piles. He invites you to deal with them because they can be dealt with, and he will help you do it. He knocks until you open yourself up. And when he comes in, he doesn’t just shred everything you own so that it goes away. He walks you through what you need to walk through, shows you what you need to see, so you can sort together what you need to sort. If it’s expired, it can be thrown away, but it will never be wasted. He will help you put everything where it belongs. You’re too valuable for him to do anything else.
Not only does he sort your bills, he paid your debt, praise God! The light can come back on, and stay on!
What about you? You’re worth a lot to him. What is he worth to you? Is he just an annoying friend who won’t go away, or is he a loving and faithful friend who will never abandon you? Is he trying to get you to be vulnerable so he can make you relive your hurt, or so that he can touch your wounds and heal them even if it does hurt?
I’m writing this because I struggle with vulnerability, too. Everyone hates to hurt. I’m not alone in that. But you have to acknowledge the hurt in order to call out for a healer… but you’re not going to call out for a healer you don’t believe is going to heal you.
I’m not the only one who has ever hurt. The irony of healing, though, is that a lot of times it isn’t pleasant.
Imagine what it was physically like for Jesus to come back to life. Maybe this is my own strange way of looking at it, but humor me for a moment. You’ve been betrayed, brutalized, suffocated to death, probably drained of blood to be embalmed. Your body isn’t exactly in great condition.
Suddenly, blood starts pumping through your dry veins again. Your dry ligaments and stiff muscles start to move again. You have a giant hole in our heart wherein someone ran a spear after you died, just to be sure you were dead. I mean, maybe Jesus’ body could have been healed before he woke up, but I wonder if it didn’t happen all at once, and if it really hurt to resurrect.
Maybe healing does come with pain. Maybe moving forward involves dealing with the past. Maybe new days are only found when you acknowledge the night you’ve been in and the nights that will still come. Maybe having your broken bones set involves getting to a doctor, and probably screaming because it hurts to move. Maybe new life involves admitting you’ve been dead.
But most of all, maybe healing only comes with trusting that when you cry out, even if it hurts at first healing will come. Maybe we have to be vulnerable before we can ever truly know we’re safe. Maybe we have to open the door for the healer to come in.