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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cleaning Out Closets

The pouring rain drove me to my hallway closet. Organizing it was sorely overdue—a job I didn’t look forward to and avoided. Today I had no excuse. When I opened it I felt overwhelmed. Where to begin? I started tearing things out and throwing them on the dining room table. With garbage bag in hand, I sorted through the contents and starting pitching odds and ends. A phone call interrupted my tedious task and I answered it.

My mood was as tempestuous as the weather, so I spilled out my emotions about my husband all over my friend. So many jumbled feelings rose to the surface. A storm brewed in my heart over my troubled marriage. Though I had brought them to the Lord earlier that morning, I needed someone to sort through the mess. Her answers heightened my fears, so I fell overboard into the raging sea. I hung up the phone in despair.

I needed to do something, anything, so I ripped into the closet with gusto. I dragged the box marked for memories into the hallway and started tossing items in there. With each picture and my children’s tokens of affection, my heart broke a little more. I had already confronted empty nest syndrome, but my failing marriage accented it. Who was in the wrong for all these troubles we faced? My husband had lost his job due to indiscretions, and now he lay on the couch with Lyme disease. But the problems ran deeper still.
The storm tossed sea of my emotions drove me out of the house into the car. A temporary break in the rain helped me escape to do errands. Yet what I desperately needed was some good Christian council. Coincidentally, I ran into a friend at the bank who had some good insight into our marriage. God’s providence, but my emotions still ran high. I felt abandoned by my husband whose tendency was to withdraw from me and the family. Who would still this disquieted heart of mine?

A good night’s sleep and the comfort of the Lord the next morning parted the clouds. The words of the Psalmist David eased my pain. “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly… Blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Psalm 84:11 & 12). The best thing I could do was to trust the Lord with my marriage and its difficulties. I had to believe this and keep my eyes focused on Jesus rather than my circumstances. Yesterday, I looked at the raging water and fell in because I listened to this world’s vain philosophies. I didn’t want to be blind to my husband’s emotional problems and considered an enabler. But God knew I had not been doing this, but loving my spouse unconditionally while drawing from God’s grace. He parted the black cloud that hung over me when I realized this anew. I would also need to continue to trust God for the future.

Though we’ve been married thirty-five years and went to several marriage counselors, our basic personalities are so different that we often experience conflict. I realized once again that only God can help us work out our differences. I also had to take a good, hard look into my messy closet and recognize what’s out of order. When my needs aren’t being met in our marriage, I can get a little pushy. My husband then withdraws, which hurts me more. For years I’ve buried myself in my children, friends or work and had to look to Jesus as my spouse. But now with my children gone and my spouse always home, there are few distractions.
How then can this marriage work with so many issues to resolve? I have to die to my selfish desires and look to Jesus to fulfill me. I can’t look to friends or having fun or to my children, but only to Him to meet my deepest needs. Not that the above things are wrong, they aren’t, but they will only satisfy temporarily. Only Jesus can fill me up when I empty myself. So here I am Lord waiting on You. He tells me, “Open your mouth, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). He’ll pour out buckets of living water into my dry and thirsty heart when I open myself to Him. If I let Him, He will wash away the emotional dirt in the inner chambers of my heart, throw away the junk and reorganize it according to His priorities. It may take some painful tearing apart, but it will create a clean heart, one like His. Then when we stand before the one who calmed the seas, He will recognize the clean sweep of His hands.