By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
In his classic little book My Heart-Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger we read about a Christian whose walk with God is comparable to various rooms in a house. As the writer walks the reader through the symbolic “house” Jesus speaks to the new believer with wisdom from on high.
The rooms include: the study, the dining room, the living room, the workroom, the rec room, the bedroom and the hall closet. Each offers an allegory of the areas of a person’s heart and life that Jesus wants to renovate and bring into alignment with God’s will.
The hall closet touched my heart especially because I have been cleaning out some storage areas in my house and I am so aware of the many things I have stashed away and piled up. I am always promising that I will get to it at some point to do a full overhaul but that time never seems to come and things keep piling up. Once I finally took the time to work on the closet I found many things I had lost, many things that are of no use that need to be thrown out, and many things that need to be recycled.
The Season of Lent calls us to go into the hall closet of our heart to do some “house-cleaning.” As we prepare for Easter we examine once again the life and ministry of Jesus and discover anew the incredible example that the Master set before us. In that study and introspection we need to find once again our “center,” our calling, our devotion to Christ.
This is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as Christ speaks to the church in Ephesus: “I have this against you: that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5a). Indeed, we should find again our lost devotion and remember, as John Newton so wonderfully wrote, “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” (“Amazing Grace,” UM Hymnal, #378)
During the Season of Lent it is also a good time to “throw out” bad attitudes, grudges, feelings of inadequacy and resentment. All of these things weigh us down and prevent us from living a joyful Christian life. Doing a full inventory of our attitudes can reveal the names of people we need to forgive and people to whom we need to apologize. Such revelation can give us a renewed sense of ourselves as God sees us, not as we compare ourselves to others.
Ephesians 4:32 reminds us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Recently I threw out an unkind letter that someone had sent me that was painful and disrespectful. By throwing out that letter and forgiving the writer I found an amazing freedom and peace. When we hold on to grudges it is like an acid that eats away the container of our soul. The only way to be free is to release that through forgiveness.
During Lent we need to recycle. Not just recycling cans and bottles but talents and skills, resources and influence for God’s good will and purpose in the world. Ephesians 2:10 proclaims “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
You are a masterpiece! What skills and talents do you have that you have left unused for God? Recently I started practicing the piano again. I had not done much with music in recent years, despite my former profession as a music teacher and choir leader. I think God can still use this somehow, some way; so I am getting back into musical shape.
Everything we have, everything we are can be useful for the kingdom, even the shadow side of our lives. Do a “gift assessment” and put to use the skills and ministry passions that you have let slide.
At the end of the book My Heart-Christ’s Home, the writer includes a section on “Transferring the Title” of the house. That, of course, is the whole point of salvation and this journey of faith we’re on as Christians. We must transfer the title of our life, our soul, our “everything” to God. It is the only way to really clean out that “hall closet” and do the works God asks of us in this world. When we transfer the title we have the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do what we cannot do in our own strength and good intentions.
Again quoting from Ephesians 3:16-17 (Weymouth New Testament) “…be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to your inmost being that Christ may settle down and be at home in your hearts by faith.” During this Lenten season draw near to God through the disciplines of our faith. And with God’s power, go clean out the closet of your soul, so you may prepare for a glorious and victorious Easter.