I’m a piler. Also, piler is not a word, so I am also a word inventor. I have piles for all kinds of things, papers, clothing, random odds and ends that I don’t know where to file away. My husband is the opposite. He has a place for everything and everything goes in its’ place. He is a placer (actual word meaning a person who sets things in their place or arranges them). And if he doesn’t know where something goes-he trashes it. This tension between my tendency to pile things and his need to have clear space was a little intense in the early years of our marriage (who I am kidding? It's still intense). He would walk through our 800 square foot apartment and weed through my piles without a word, which I falsely construed as frustration. Then I would freak out and start yelling at him for moving my stuff. He would furrow his brow at me with a look that said, “Don’t you know most wives yell at their husbands for not cleaning up? Get a grip lady.” Even now you can see the difference when comparing his side and my side of our bathroom.
After trudging through the why’s and what for’s of our piling and un-piling habits, we adjusted our tendencies so that we could live together more peaceably. Now, I pile much less than I used to (ok, maybe not much less), and he mostly ignores the corners where piles have become permanent. However, I did find a pile of the kid’s art-work in the trash the other day. At first, I got frustrated but then realized he simply did what I lacked the courage to do. I resisted the urge to take them out of the trash (mainly because they were soaked in salsa) and moved on.
My house is not the only place I tend to pile things. I have a tendency to pile things up in my heart as well. I don’t always realize I am doing it, but every once in awhile, I feel myself feeling very disconnected from God and in what I guess would be labeled as a “dry season” in my faith. I can usually trace this to events that I perhaps handled in my own strength and ended up with a mess that I didn’t know what to do with, and pushed it all into a pile to be dealt with later when I had more energy/insight/compassion or whatever excuse allowed me to procrastinate. So, an ill-spoken word, a sinful thought, self-righteous anger, or any other momentary human fail, that I did not confess to God and allow him to deal with, got pushed into a pile in a corner of my heart left to collect dust and create separation from my Father.
With every pile in my house, once I’ve walked past it for a few days, I forget it’s there. It becomes a part of the decor. So it is with my heart. After a few days, I’ve gotten used to that pile of sin. It becomes a part of my character. And it isn’t until I take time to look around and focus on the clutter that I realize how out of control the pile has become.
Often, this is when I finally recognize that the Holy Spirit has been working to un-pile my heart. He is faithful to draw my attention to the sin that is separating me from God. Sometimes I see it quickly, other times, I drag my feet and he is patient.
I often feel that I am the only one who piles. I see other people’s houses, neat and tidy and I wonder-are they really this uncluttered, or are their piles momentarily hiding in baskets in the closet like mine? Comparison is rarely healthy, but neither is feeling alone. I think we all have piles in our hearts. I know we have all fallen short because the Bible tells me so. The danger is not only in falling short, but in getting used to it and never coming to a place of repentance. When we become comfortable living in piles of sin we are in danger of being separated from God. The Bible also tells me he loves us too much to let this happen. So he sent Jesus to clean up the mess. Then he sent the Holy Spirit to remind us that sin piles up again very easily. The first of Martin Luther’s thesis reads:
When our Lord and Master Jesus said “Repent, “ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.
This means that our progress is made through continual daily repentance. It isn’t a prayer prayed once and we are done. It is ongoing because sin is always crouching waiting to have us. It is humbling because I don’t like to think I need to ask forgiveness. I like to think my effort at Christian living is good enough. However, when I fail to repent, I find myself further away from God instead of closer. I find myself estranged from others, instead of fellowshipping in community and peace.
The words of Milton Vincent's Gospel Primer shock my heart into the reality of my sin. He writes,
If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved...Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha's hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations...Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others...the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers.
We must repent. We cannot cease repenting until we are made perfect in the presence of God. We don’t have to repent alone. We can repent together as God’s people, humbling ourselves and praying for forgiveness and righteousness. We can move together into the world as the Church, not because we are perfected, but because we are progressing to the day of perfection by the grace of God.
My prayer for us today is that we would submit to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repent. I pray that we will not stubbornly refuse to look honestly at the sins we have allowed to pile up and separate us from God, and that we will share our struggles with trusted believers. I pray that we will never become accustomed to our sin, but that it would make us uncomfortable until we put it in its place-on the cross of Christ.
The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned. From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:16-17
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.