We have a gorgeous kitchen in our rental home. In fact, the kitchen is one of the main reasons why we rented the home in the first place. After years of living in homes with small kitchens that offered very little space to cook or entertain, I fell in love with this house the moment I saw this photo.
Looks amazing, right? That’s because this picture was taken before we actually moved in.
It was so pristine, so perfect! Surely if I had a home with this beautiful kitchen, life would always be a dream. Right? Right?!
After we moved in, life happened. We needed somewhere to put the extra paperwork, somewhere to store the can opener. Bills, candies, random game pieces and odd bits of craft supplies all needed somewhere to go. Change had to gather somewhere. Eventually, we had lost one of our drawers to a random collection of junk.
Over time, more junk accumulated than we could fit in one drawer… so we established a second junk drawer.
Soon, it spilled over into a third.
Eventually, we had seven junk drawers. If I hadn’t intervened a few days ago, that drawer surely would have succumbed to the invading, creeping junk collection.
Even with all of this junk, our kitchen looked relatively clean and tidy. Sure, I had a hard time finding anything, but as long as I kept it all out of sight I was able to mostly ignore it. I didn’t want to deal with what seemed like an insurmountable task, so I kept it covered and hoped nobody would ever see it.
A few days ago, I went to put something away and realized the drawer where it once belonged was so full of random life debris that there wasn’t room for the things that actually belonged there. I pulled open the next drawer and the next. I couldn’t find the needed space anywhere!
I was horrified.
While I had been busy living life, this untamed mess had slowly expanded and was conquering my beautiful kitchen! My counters were stacked high with things that should have been in the drawers and the drawers were stuffed full with things that should’ve been…. well, lots of different places. Everything was backwards and out of control.
The mess was unsustainable. It had to be corrected. I grabbed a soda, turned on some music and started in on the unpleasant task.
Before I could fix anything, though, I had to pull all of that junk out of the drawers and onto the countertops. To solve the problem, I first had to uncover and face the problem in all of its unpleasantness. Drawer by drawer, I pulled out all of the contents. I uncovered and sorted paperwork and medicines, hair ties and marbles, real money and play money and all the little odds and ends that had accumulated in these drawers over the last two years.
My husband walked in right about the time I snapped this ugly before picture. I cringed and frantically tried to explain that I actually am cleaning and being productive, even though it looked exactly the opposite. My husband, who is very laid back and is much less concerned with my productivity than I am, grinned and said, “Oh, I know what that mess is! You’re doing awesome.”
Awesome? Awesome?! How could this be awesome when my previously clean counters were covered in all this junk? They were so clean and nice a few minutes before. How could this be awesome? I thought it was terrible.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me:
When did I decide that the illusion of clean was better than the reality of clean?
To fix my junk drawer dilemma, I had to dig deeper than the tidy façade I’d maintained. I had to empty the drawers, face the mess, and tackle it head-on. In order to achieve real, genuine, authentic clean, I had to work through the mess – even through the dirty, grimy parts I’d rather not to touch. I couldn’t just stuff it somewhere and ignore it. I had to get my hands dirty, I had to sweat and work and suffer a little because clean – real clean – takes work.
How applicable this is to my emotional turmoil of the last few months! I have hoarded years of mental and emotional pain, burying it deep beneath the surface. The recent traumas I’ve experienced burst open the emotional dams I’d built and I have been laboring through a flood of unresolved emotions. I have spent a lifetime avoiding instead of dealing with my emotions. Learning to unearth the experiences of my past, examine them, process them and put them into their proper perspective has been one of the most difficult and defining challenges of my life. At some point, early in my life, I had decided that looking like I was okay was more important than actually being okay – so I had repressed, stuffed, and stored all my emotional baggage until I was ready to burst.
Whether your challenge is home organization, buried emotions, sin or even unemployment, the reality is the same. It isn’t enough to make our surfaces look good. The pursuit of authenticity requires real, true, gut-honest change. Not just a change in the things people can see but a deep-down change in the hidden parts of our hearts.
The truth is, you can run but you can’t hide…
because these problems will fester and grow until they are dealt with.
Like my junk collection grew and expanded and crept into different areas of my kitchen, the turmoil from my unresolved emotional agony also crept into different areas of my life. Like my tangible junk, any ‘junk’ thoughts, emotions, impulses or habits that we allow to go unchecked will fester and grow until our lives are so infected that we can no longer function without facing the root problem.
One of the biggest problems that happens when we ignore a problem like this is that it becomes increasingly difficult to track down the true source of the problem. For a long time, I thought my problem was the pile of stuff on my counters… but then I realized I had a place for those things. When I tried to put those things away, though, there was no room left in the drawers.
The problem looked like it was on my countertops but the problem was actually hidden somewhere deeper than that. Too often, we treat the symptoms of our problems instead of curing the disease.
We were made for a better, more authentic life.
Like my kitchen drawers, our emotional and mental and physical energy is finite. It has limitations. Although we can occasionally be stretched beyond our capacity, trying to live constantly beyond our ability to cope is a recipe for certain disaster. Many of us understand that living beyond our means financially will result in financial ruin. I contend that living beyond our spiritual, emotional, mental or physical means will ruin us in similar ways as well.
We absolutely must learn to tackle these problems before they grow too large. The larger the problem, the longer the recovery will be. It has taken 25 years for me to build up the emotional mess I’ve found myself in. I can only hope it doesn’t take 25 years for me to resolve it. (I don’t think it will, though. After all, it only took me a few hours to resolve two years’ worth of chaos in the kitchen drawers!)
The home I am renting is beautiful and it was made to be fully lived in. The kitchen drawers were meant to be used – not to hold junk but to hold the items necessary for me to fully enjoy and use my kitchen. These drawers were built to enrich my home and improve my life – but I’ve misused them in a way that detracts and distracts from their real purpose.
Similarly, I was created for so much more than the life I’ve been living. As a Daughter of God, I am known to God. He knows me better than I know myself – and He knows that I have a divine identity and a purpose because He gave it to me. My purpose on this earth is not to fabricate a façade of ‘being okay.’
None of us were meant to merely survive in this life – we were made to thrive! We were all made to thrive, to make a difference, to live rich, full, authentic lives.
It is time to empty out our ‘junk drawers,’ whatever they may be, and pursue a real definition of ‘clean.’ It’s time to move away from the illusions we’ve tried to maintain and pursue the authenticity we were made for.
Figure out what is holding you back. What is taking up space in your heart, head or life that shouldn’t be? What is robbing you of the physical, mental and emotional energy you need to live a rich, full, life? Once you’ve found it, face it. Figure it out and free yourself from it!
It is absolutely worth every effort – and I truly believe it’s an important first step on the quest for authenticity.