So far 2017 has been a year of clearing out, letting go and getting rid of things.   Some of these things have been around for a long time. Some not.  The way we can accumulate stuff so quickly is a phenomena that defies my imagination. However, the ease with which we accumulate seems to be in direct proportion to the pain of divesting ourselves of all this stuff.  I don’t know if you have noticed but things always seem to get worse before they get better when we decide to do ‘deep’ cleaning.  This is painful, but the far greater pain for me is the letting go.  I am not a hoarder but I always hear my mother’s voice…”you never know when you might need that….”  I believe it is very much our Ukrainian heritage to be frugal and conservative. However, we can go too far.  Sometimes our things can become a burden, especially when space is limited and order turns to disorder.

I have discovered I have attachments that are not rational or healthy, usually related to memories that connect me to relationships, often with people who are either far away or who have passed on.  Those are the toughest…”I know that old sewing machine does not work but my Baba gave it to me when I was learning how to sew….” And then as if to try and seem a bit justified I will reason “…but it is an antique.”  For me the pain of the mess created by bringing this stuff out of the closet often mitigates the pain of letting go as in the harsh light of day it is often clear that the only way to deal with it is to purge.

In our spiritual journey, it is my experience that God will only clean out our closet when we willingly submit to the
process.  Even when we agree to the process, however, every parting is something we must consent to, and like when we clean our closets, it is not always easy.  God will never force the issue.  He will let us stay in our mess if we like.  He will even let us make more of a mess.  He will only clean up and help us get rid of stuff if we ask Him to.

We pray to the Holy Spirit:  “Heavenly King, Advocate, Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and fill all things, treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all that defiles us and O Good One, save our souls.

Of course, when we are talking about the stuff in our spiritual lives that clutters and distracts we are generally referring to our sins.  Often these are habits that we cling to without even realizing it. Sort of like the stuff in our closets, as long as it stays hidden in the dark we often remain oblivious.   Sometimes things that are in plain sight for those we live with are the very things we are most blind to–our tendency to make unkind comments, our lack of self control, or our anger–to mention only a few of those dark areas we all at one time or another may have to bring to the light. (I speak from painfully personal experience here.)  We were created in the “image and likeness” of God and we all bear the stamp of His image in our basic human dignity.  However, through our sin we have blurred and distorted His likeness.  As we have heard from the Church Fathers, “Christ became man so we could become like God”.  Through Christ the likeness is restored.  However, we need to follow Him, to worship Him, to be united with Him through the Eucharist and to love Him through our all our  relationships.  We open ourselves up to that love through our prayer–especially the Divine Liturgy–where the power of transforming love changes Bread and Wine into the Christ and can change our lonely and disordered hearts into sanctuaries of life-giving order and blessing.

As we pray to the Holy Spirit, we pray for him to cleanse our hearts, so that He, the God of Life and Blessings will
come to dwell in us.  We need to note something here.  The Spirit of God is present everywhere–yet he will not dwell within us unless we invite Him, and then he can only come and dwell within us when we allow ourselves to cleansed of our sins and start to be transformed into the people God has created us to be. (Hence the great value of the sacrament we know as confession or reconciliation, to begin and sustain that lifelong process of change.)  However if we refuse the offer God is making to us it means that potentially our hearts can be the darkest and most lifeless and cluttered place in the Universe.  A heart that is cluttered has no room for God–what a tragedy.  What respect God has for our free will.  Only by our choice can blessing and life flow.

Some things are never ending processes in our lives.  De-cluttering is one of them. As we free ourselves of the things that clutter our closets, and simplify our lifestyle, help us Lord to open our hearts to your cleansing and transforming power in our lives, that we might shine ever more gloriously as a living ‘icon’ or ‘likeness’ of You.

Deborah Larmour is the Director of the Family and Life Office, Eparchy of Saskatoon.  She is passionate about faith and family lived from the heart in the Sacramental-Liturgical tradition of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
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