Friday, July 25, 2014

when dirty dishes tell a freedom tale

i went to bed last night with dishes piled in the sink. and they'll be there until i finish this post. this is completely out of character for me. for an old me anyway. old me broke an anxious sweat even considering leaving dishes in the sink for one. single. minute. i'd say things like "no way can i go to bed/leave the house/have company if ___ isn't done! ahhh i can't breathe!"
being clean and neat is my favorite. it comforts me, makes me feel less vulnerable. it helps me forget things like pain and regret. so i thought.

i was reminded of this quote yesterday:
"perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if i look perfect, and do everything perfectly, i can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame." brené brown
i remember when i first read that, i highlighted the crap out of it. and cried. 

my love for clean and orderly has been strong for most of my life. much of that time, my passion for sparkle and organization was motivated by shame. shame from offending and being offended against. the affects of sin truly color every facet of our lives, i'm sure you know what it's like. i think i was working so hard to do just as that quote above says "avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgement and blame". the problem with this method though? it doesn't work. no amount of dusting, scrubbing, shining, filing or labeling can make those things disappear. in fact, in my experience, i believe it made my shame problem worse. i was looking for ways i could manage/mask/fix things on my own. after years of being devoted to "looking good", i'm committed to facing the real filth, in my heart. this hurts, runs deep and i know it will take time undo these harmful habits of keeping up appearances. so far, i am encouraged to say it's going well. god is faithful. he hears us when we call him!

i love you, lord;
you are my strength.
the lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my god is my rock, in whom i find protection.
he is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
i called on the lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.
the ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
the grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
but in my distress i cried out to the lord;
yes, i prayed to my god for help.
he heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.
psalm 18:1-6 nlt

in my attempts to clean all the things away, i was only minimizing my view of the power of christ and his cross. 

you were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. then god made you alive with christ, for he forgave all our sins. he canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. in this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. he shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. colossians 2:13-15 nlt

he canceled my record. nailed it to the cross. and disarmed satan, taking away his tool of shame's power over my life. there is nothing i can add to that! i never earned this freedom, not with cleaning or being a good person or doing good things.

god saved you by his grace when you believed. and you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from god. salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. for we are god’s masterpiece. he has created us anew in christ jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ephesians 2:8-10 nlt

this freedom, salvation and fellowship with jesus, is a gift. not salvation plus my cleaning schedule. or plus anything else. gifts are free, in case you need reminding like i always do. the cross is enough. it's enough to release the bonds of shame forever. i can believe that it's mine, and trust the giver, and give him praise. every minute of every day. i am free to make beautiful to-do lists, organize and clean my kitchen, and i'm free to leave dishes in the sink. i can be happy if my house is neat or not, because my identity is in jesus alone.

cleaning isn't wrong. enjoying cleaning isn't wrong, although people make fun of me. but cleaning doesn't make me clean. it's not my filth that keeps me from abundant life in christ. it's my cleanliness that isn't clean enough. in the same way god's shown me freedom with food, he's showing me freedom in my dirty dishes.

i don't want to miss opportunities to worship the lord, love well, meet a need or laugh with loved ones because i'm so busy with my shame management. jesus, help me. 
my cleaning for the wrong reasons habit crept back up when we moved recently. i'm in a new city, with a new apartment (that i don't like much, by the way). when everything around me is changed, it has a way of showing me my real self (pride, idols of my heart, self-reliance). and my real self still has a long way to go with jesus. good news is, he's got time for me and grace for my mess.


  1. Oh Hannah. I had to sit down and read this through a second time so I could soak it in. Ever since we moved I have been trying to clean it all away. All the loneliness, the not knowing a soul, the fear of meeting new people and fear of meeting no one. Thank you. Thank you for helping me to see what I have been doing and what I should be doing instead. Tomorrow I going to say a prayer and hit the streets. I need to get put of these walls if I am going to make this new place a home.

  2. your words. i love them and have missed them!

  3. Hope my last comment comes through? Who trusted me with a smart phone? ;)

  4. Thank you for these words and the reminder that comes with them, Hannah!